The collection of plastics is not only a ‘hot topic’ but also a great success. Unfortunately, the recycling is not so straightforward. Worldwide, countries are collecting and recycling plastic waste to make their economy more and more circular. However, every major change brings about a number of challenges.
In the case of the Netherlands, recycled plastics are now only used for low quality products. The goal is to keep the quality of the recycled products as high as possible. Partners for Innovation has written, together with the NRK and partners the Masterplan Plastics Cycle, a vision on the system as a whole.
Economies of scale
A key point of the Masterplan is upscaling. Currently, this is not achieved due to a lack of knowledge in brand owner companies on the possibilities of recycled plastics. Also, the market has not fully integrated recycled plastics yet. In comparison to glass and paper recycling it is still very new. Furthermore, costs and benefits for the environment of recycled plastics in relation to virgin are currently not taken into account.
Further research and knowledge exchange is vital if we want to succeed in finding more appliances. The Wageningen University & Research has been involved in the creation of the Masterplan. Programma manager sustainable materials Christiaan Bolck: we have to carry out research into new methods of recycling, like chemical recycling. Bolck’s aim in view is a reuse of plastics of 95%. “We should be able to extract the other 5% from plants.”
A main glitch in the system is that part of the plastic packaging is very difficult to recycle due to the existence of different layers on top of each other (multi-layer). To tackle this problem we need to look at the design of the packaging. In the future it should not be possible to bring a product or package on the market and not know how it can be recycled and reused.
Download the Masterplan Kunststof Kringloop (Dutch)
YouTube films on Circular Plastics
Read more on the Guidelines Ontwerpen met kunststof recyclaat (English)
Website of the NRK