21. May 2019
Paths to maximum recycling
The demonization of plastics waste is currently ever-present. Recycling is another possible solution beside the avoidance of waste. Luckily recycling is already well organised in Germany and Europe. Separated plastics that are returned are very well suited to reprocessing. In plastics recycling the used materials are made into regranulate that is later formed into a new plastic product through further processing. The regranulate quality is the most important obstacle for the use of recycled materials in new product applications. Two fundamental conditions are decisive if the quality of recycled materials and thus the use of recycled plastics is to be significantly improved in the near future.
The first necessary condition is the technical configuration of recycling operations and plastics processing. Only if the technological possibilities are on a high level plastics can be recycled and reused for the best quality. There are many solutions to this and the current equipment in recycling is at a sophisticated level in this country.
The second necessary condition for good regranulate quality lies in the homogeneity and quality of a recycler’s input material. The final product can only be high quality if there is a waste stream of plastics that can be recycled well. As packaging has such a short usage period and occurs in large quantities, it is particularly suited to observing and describing the effects of recyclability on the regranulate quality.
Thus contamination of the recycled materials at the end of recycling can be avoided, for example, by using simple measures on a lot of sales packaging such as exchanging individual packaging components. The same is true for industrial packaging and plastic products. Of course the choice of components in the same type of plastic is good for recycling but this can also have a negative effect on the function that a product must fulfil. This tension between the requirements for a product and demands for the recycling of the product can therefore depend on many factors. In the end the aim is to optimise recyclability while retaining all the desired functions.
That means that optimisation of recyclability can be achieved by determining a status quo. In order to do this, products and packaging are divided into their components and undergo a virtual recycling process based on the current technical recycling standards. The recyclable weight portion is the weight of all components that form the basis for a recycled raw material in the relevant material stream. Factors such as the separability and compatibility of individual product or packaging components are of course also decisive.
Based on this status quo, which can already be used in a standardised manner, plastship can compare products and product categories. This comparability can be used in order to classify packaging and products by their quality for recycling and to derive measures from this to improve recyclability. The recyclable weight portion is transferred into a grading system (recycling index). The results of this kind of testing can also be used to document improvement and attract customers. Recycled plastics also have the advantage that their production only uses a fraction of the CO2 emissions per kilo compared to new goods. This means that products and packaging that are recycled well also contribute to preserving the environment in a measurable way.
Plastic recycling possibilities are complex and there are niche applications for the reprocessing of many plastics or plastic products. Determination of recyclability should therefore not only mean the determination of an analytical recyclability for products and packaging but also the finding of active solutions for existing products and packaging that could not be optimally recycled to date or to establish these solutions. It is also important that an industrially available process is submitted to the authorities in order to centrally document the recycling solution.
plastship tests the recyclability of products and packaging using a standardised calculation model that allows the certification of complete portfolios of products/packaging. This approach includes the minimum standard of the Central Agency for Registering Packaging (orientation aid) and enables comparisons and rankings between different product/packaging categories. With the help of this approach, products and packaging can then be identified that can be optimised using simple measures. Of course the function of a product and criteria from plastics processing are always taken into account. plastship advises on the use of regranulate and solves customers’ problems with plastics recycling. This start-up from the state of Hesse links supply from plastics recycling with demand from plastics processing using the company’s own, digital platform in order to identify the perfect recycled plastic for a certain application and to secure a materials cycle for used plastics.
Here you can see an explanatory video.
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