The problem of End-of-Life Plastic

The problem of End-of-Life Plastic

Plastic is a truly versatile and valuable material, so it’s not surprising that its production and use is growing exponentially. However, the acute problem of plastic waste is forcing companies to use less than ideal methods to discard it. They either bury it, burn it, or in some cases, dump it. At Recycling Technologies, we offer a recycling system that is an environmentally beneficial and commercially attractive alternative.

 

The growth of plastic

Plastic has a significant role to play for a sustainable future. Global production has exceeded 300Mt pa, and this is expected to double in the next 20 years. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation with McKinsey at the World Economic Forum reported in the Global Plastic Packaging Roadmap, that only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling with just 10% actually recycled. The rest, End-of-Life Plastic, goes to landfill (40%), incineration (14%), or shockingly, leaks into the environment (32%).

 

The environment under pressure

The vast majority of plastic is still disposed of by incineration or landfill. Worryingly, the report also points out that in excess of 8Mt of plastic enters the oceans each year. In a business-as-usual scenario it estimates that by 2025 there will be 1t of plastic for every 3t of fish and by 2050 more plastic than fish! The EU commission believes that plastic waste washed away from landfills accounts for around 80% of the plastic in the marine environment (UNEP, 2005).

 

The limits of current technology

Mechanical recycling has inherent limitations in producing polymer grades at a price and quality to compete with virgin polymers. Pots, Tubs and Trays are often made from blends of plastic and containers such as toothpaste tubes, crisp packets and drinks cartons use laminates of differing polymers and can include an aluminium layer. The widespread use of dyes, fillers, and other additives present further challenges.

 

Implications for business

Currently, significant End-of-Life Plastic is processed at Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs), Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plants and Plastic Recovery Facilities (PRFs). It is then baled, transported and disposed of in landfill or Energy from Waste (EfW) plants, in the UK or overseas. On top of the cost associated with baling and transportation, waste producers have to pay gate fees and landfill tax. There is pressure on these facilities from a European, National and Regional Government level to meet recycling targets; by positioning an RT7000 at these facilities, substantial quantities of End-of-Life Plastic waste otherwise destined for landfill or incineration, can now be recycled, contributing to meeting recycling targets.

The Recycling Technologies solution offers:
  • Lower cost than EfW and landfill
  • Locality to the site where the End-of-Life Plastic is generated
  • Minimal capital expenditure
  • Feasible for tonnages of End-of-Life Plastic generated at their site
  • Significantly reduced carbon footprint
Extended Producer Responsibility

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for packaging is a policy approach that extends the producer’s responsibility for a product beyond their current scope, to include the management of their product’s packaging after the product has been used by consumers. EPR policies shift the waste management responsibility from local governments to producers. This policy pushes producers to also take environmental consideration into account when designing their products.