The new regulation is intended to reduce littering; however, noted the report, there are some unintended consequences. “It will likely stir demand for virgin polymers, thus compromising the industry’s committed efforts to lightweighting,” said AMI. Short-term, the new closure designs are likely to be heavier than those on the market today. Additionally the industry will need to accommodate significant costs required for regulatory compliance. “This creates a conceivable clash between environmental and economic pillars of sustainability and uncertainty over consumer acceptance of changes.”
One major problem with recycling and the resulting recyclate is contamination. Recyclate has to be clean in order to be accepted for recycling. The PRE notes the importance of avoiding the introduction of contaminants in the recycling streams to retain high safety standards for recycled materials. In Europe, the groundwork has been laid out, as high-quality sorting practices that could be implemented EU-wide already exist.
The challenge, noted by PRE, is to create a system where all the complementary steps—separate packaging waste collection, harmonized sorting standards and quality checks for bales—are optimized and equally enforced at the member state level. “It is thus essential to promote the separate collection of plastic packaging waste, and at the same time to create standards that will promote best practices in sorting and bale specifications for sorted plastic packaging waste,” said PRE. “With these efforts we can genuinely capture the value of plastic waste and transform it into new high-quality products, produced in accordance with the highest European safety standards.”
Recycling to obtain high-quality recyclate begins with the sorting process, and step one toward improved quality of recyclate is increased separate collection. Consumers can help with this if they are educated about the recycling process and what is important. Step two is standardized “best sorting” practices that should them lead to optimized bale quality specifications.
“High-quality sorting of plastic packaging waste will lead to increased productivity and improved cost efficiency of the recycling processes, resulting in the production of high-quality recyclates,” said PRE. “Such measures are essential if the industry is to move closer toward a circular economy.”
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