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World’s Largest Plastic Recycling Plant Opens

Grand opening of Site Zero in Sweden, which can sort up to 12 types of plastic including four types of flexibles at a 95% success rate, is the most efficient recycling plant in Europe.

Rick Lingle, Senior Technical Editor

November 14, 2023

3 Min Read
Svensk Plaståtervinning

The world's biggest plant for sorting plastic packaging opened for business today, Nov. 15, which happens to be Recycling Day. Site Zero in Motala, Sweden, doubles plastic recycling compared to the previous benchmark plant, which was already one of the most efficient in Europe. Up to 95% of all packaging received can be recycled.

Svensk Plaståtervinning (Swedish Plastic Recycling) invested one billion Swedish Krona (about $95 million) in the facility.

"The conditions now exist to actually make plastics part of the circular economy," says Mattias Philipsson, CEO of Svensk Plaståtervinning.

Minister for Climate and Environment Romina Pourmokhtari and more than 350 guests from Sweden and Europe attended the opening ceremony.

The key to successful plastic recycling is retaining the value of the material, which requires efficient sorting and recycling of each individual plastic type. This is where Site Zero is pioneering: The plant can sort as many as 12 types of plastic, which corresponds to almost all types of plastic on the Swedish packaging market, compared to three or four at comparable plants in Europe.

Among those are two types of flexible packaging polymers.

Site Zero has now been tested for a period prior to opening, and the results show record figures for sorting efficiency. As much as 95% of the packaging arriving at the plant can be sorted out for recycling in the next step.

"This means a doubling of plastic recycling compared to our previous plant, which was already one of the most efficient in Europe," says Mattias Philipsson, CEO of Svensk Plaståtervinning. “The results from the test period show that plastic can now become part of the circular economy.

"With Site Zero, we have set a new path for plastic recycling and the rest of Europe. The world needs to follow, to reduce emissions from incineration and the need for primary raw material. It is no longer justifiable to incinerate as much plastic as we do or melt it down into low-quality products that cannot be recycled again.”

Site Zero will be the world's biggest sorting plant and can process 200,000 tons of plastic packaging. This is approximately equivalent to the total volume in Sweden. About half of this plastic packaging is collected by the Swedes, and until more plastic reaches the recycling system, Svensk Plaståtervinning has offered capacity to other countries. Starting in 2024, Site Zero will receive most of Finland's household plastics.

Impressive statistics of the Site Zero recycling facility.

Size: 60,000 square meters (645,835 sq ft); previous plant 15,000 sqm (161,458) sq ft.

Sorting capacity: 12 types of plastic vs three to four types at comparable plants.

Polymers sorted: rigid polypropylene (PP); rigid high-density PP; flexible PP; flexible low-density polyethylene (LDPE); transparent PET trays; transparent PET bottles; colored PET bottles; polystyrene (PS); expanded PS (EPS); polyvinyl chloride (PVC); two grades of mixed polyolefin laminates; and metal and non-plastic rejects.

Sorting efficiency: Up to 95% of the received plastics can be sorted out and recycled in the next step.

Sorting sensors: 60 near-infrared (NIR) sensors; comparable plants have an average of 5 NIR sensors and the previous plant had 19 sensors.

Advanced control system: fully automated process, real-time optimization, artificial intelligence. The different parts of the plant influence and talk to each other, optimizing the sorting process.

Reception capacity: 200,000 tons per year of mixed plastic packaging from households (previous plant, 100,000 tons per year).

Sorting speed: 1,000 packages per second, 42 tons per hour.

About the Author(s)

Rick Lingle

Senior Technical Editor, Packaging Digest and PlasticsToday

Rick Lingle is Senior Technical Editor, Packaging Digest and PlasticsToday. He’s been a packaging media journalist since 1985 specializing in food, beverage and plastic markets. He has a chemistry degree from Clarke College and has worked in food industry R&D for Standard Brands/Nabisco and the R.T. French Co. Reach him at [email protected] or 630-481-1426.

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