Polyethylene Liners Find Second Life

Even if you don’t know what a polyethylene liner is off the top of your head, you’ve seen them. If you frequently get packages, you’ve probably seen them a lot. These insulated packaging liners help keep all kinds of goods from becoming damaged from heat or other extreme temperatures, and they’re largely responsible for the rise in online food and pharmaceutical shipping services.

The downside? They’re really tough to recycle. The base design of these liners consists of a multi-film, metalized composite materials that are impossible to convert into other high-demand market materials. And because they are most commonly used to transport perishable food, plant and pharmaceutical products, they cannot be reused over and over again on their own.

But that may no longer be a problem, thanks to an innovative collaboration between packaging manufacturer PAC Worldwide and composite decking manufacturer Trex Company. Using the “NexTrex” nationwide recycling program as a vehicle, PAC Worldwide has introduced consumers and the packing industry to the world’s first 100% recyclable, government approved thermal bubble liner, as well as a whole line of additional recyclable packing products. And just like their predecessors, these recyclable products still manage to maintain ideal temperatures to preserve perishable goods. That’s impressive to say the least, but what’s happening with the newly recyclable polyethylene liners is even more so.

Turning One-time Use Packaging Materials into Lasting Outdoor Decks

Not too long ago, the mere thought of something like packaging materials transforming into sturdy, outdoor decking and railings would seem far-fetched, if not impossible. But that’s exactly what the partnership between PAC and Trex hopes to achieve. The new line of recyclable packing materials (liners, roll stock, pallet covers and Pouches) will be collected after use via the NexTrex program. Currently, stores and shopping centers in 49 states (Hawaii is the exception) and Washington D.C. are participating, with over 32,000 collection bins nationwide where the used materials can be deposited.

Once collected, the packing materials can be combined with other NexTrex recycled items to be turned into the sturdy, weather-resistant composite material for outdoor decking and railings. Impressively, the recycled portion in the finished product is at about 95 percent. In time, the partnership between PAC and Trex is estimated to relieve the nation’s landfills of about 400 million pounds of formerly non-recyclable polyethylene.

Consumer Education Comes First

In another spark of innovation, both PAC and Trex are putting consumer education first in their quest to recycle the new packing liners. After all, the program will only work if consumers follow through and deposit the packaging materials in the designated collection bins. Recycling programs have long been grown via supply chain advances, but the main efforts here will be focused on spreading awareness about polyethylene and sustainability efforts. In this case, consumers will have plenty of online access to learn more about the program and where they can drop off their used packaging materials.

Consumers may be more likely to participate in recycling efforts when they actually know what the materials are being used for, after all. Furthermore, current trends towards sustainable alternatives have made their way all over the nation. The general public prefers options they view as environmentally safe, and in time, this will propel more growth of NexTrex and the PAC-Trex partnership.