A group of plastic packaging manufacturers and lubricant manufacturers has formed The National Lubricant Container Recycling Coalition (NLCRC). The coalition’s goal is to address the challenges involved in recovering postconsumer plastic lubricant containers for recycling. NLCRC aims to establish a market-sustaining program that drives the recovery and recycling of plastic lubricant containers.
The idea for the coalition came about in early 2020 but its founders delayed its establishment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. NLCRC’s founding companies include Castrol, Valvoline, Pennzoil – Quaker State Company, Graham Packaging, and Plastipak Packaging.
“In the lubricant industry, even an ‘empty’ bottle can contain residual amounts of product,” says Tristan Steichen, director of NLCRC. Consumers often don’t add these containers to the recycling bin. The containers that do make it to the bin are frequently discarded in landfills “due to concerns with secondary-use applications,” says Steichen.
The NLCRC aims to address the challenge these containers present “by building an industry-wide program that involves multiple stakeholders across the value chain,” including manufacturers of the product and packaging, retailers that sell it, consumers, and the recyclers who collect and process it.
Often, when individual companies address the recycling challenge, the solutions are only effective for those particular companies, says Steichen. “We believe in the concept of shared value, and as we engage with each stakeholder, we need to work with them to understand how they connect to the value chain, and how they may extract value from the system,” he adds.
Initially, the coalition will focus on designing and implementing pilot projects to explore the best methods of collection, aggregation, and processing. Right now, the NLCRC is in the design phase of its pilot projects. “Some of these design elements include selection of appropriate ‘test’ markets, engaging with value chain stakeholders, looking at methods for ‘stimulating’ recovery efforts, and so on,” explains Steichen.
NLCRC invites interested organizations to join the coalition. “We are actively seeking participation from retailers, haulers, and recyclers … as well as developing criteria for identifying suitable markets to test our assumptions and build a scalable model,” says Steichen.