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  • It’s estimated* that in Massachusetts alone 10 million or more plastic can carriers are used annually, with just 10% of them being collected and reused by breweries, and less than 2% of them ever being properly recycled. 
  • Despite the manufacturer’s marketing claims, rigid plastic can carriers and plastic film six-pack rings are NOT curbside recyclable in Massachusetts and most other states.
  • This has been verified by the RecycleSmart website, an initiative of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and confirmed by the three largest waste disposal companies in the state: Casella, Republic, and Waste Management.
  • When plastic can carriers and rings are put in recycling bins that get collected by trucks and brought to materials recovery facilities (MRFs) they pose problems for sorting equipment because of their shape (they get tangled in machinery), size (too small & flat, so they often get mistaken for cardboard or paper), and color (black plastic is often undetectable to infra-red optical sorters). 
  • As a result, plastic can carriers and rings end up being rejected and sent to landfill or incineration with all the other municipal solid waste, both of which have negative impacts on the environment, including increased greenhouse gas emissions and creation of toxic pollutants.
  • When not properly recycled, plastic can carriers and rings sometimes leak into the environment where they pose danger to wildlife, especially turtles and sea birds, which can become entangled or ingest the plastic when it degrades into smaller pieces.
  • The necessary sorting equipment and recycling infrastructure required to deal with single-use plastic packaging is impractical for taxpayer-funded municipalities, and the costs (both monetary and environmental) associated with plastic packaging recycling is currently the focus of both federal and state extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation.
  • The most environmentally conscious practice regarding plastic carriers is to REDUCE the number needed by Reusing them as often as possible. The plastic recycling process is flawed, and should be viewed as a last resort for damaged, unusable carriers.
  • Rigid plastic can carriers are made from HDPE #2 plastic, but can only be recycled when delivered in large quantities to a plastics recycling processor, not by a single-stream curbside recycling collection company.
  • Flimsy film 6-pack rings are made from photodegradable LDPE #4 plastic, which can only be recycled if mailed back to its manufacturer through the free RingRecycleMe program.

*Estimates for can carrier use, re-use and recycling were calculated using data collected by the Mass. Brew Bros. through correspondences with various Massachusetts breweries, officials from recycling groups, and the state’s largest waste management companies. The 10 million figure doesn’t include beer purchased in Massachusetts from out-of-state breweries. When those figures are included the total number of can carriers entering the waste stream is significantly higher.

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