A new eye to see recycling and design
Recycling is one of the most beneficial and environmentally friendly options of all of the waste management methods. The environmental benefits of replacing incineration or landfill with recycling are numerous. Recycling diverts waste from landfills which has an impact on lower greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Recycling also has lower environmental impacts when compared to virgin materials production i.e. avoiding oil extraction and refining which has an immediate impact on saving natural resources and energy.
Taking into account the whole plastics recycling value chain, including collection, pre-treatment/sorting, transportation, recycling and the options of energy recovery and landfilling, a significant reduction in GHG emissions is expected in 2020 if the targets set in EU legislation are met. The GHG savings of plastic recy- cling could therefore result in 6.5% less emissions of the EU plastics industry by 2020 and 11.5% less emissions by 2025.
Recycling is to be an important sector of the European economy as direct revenues from recycling constitute considerable and constantly growing contribution. An increase of the recycling rates targets is a prerequisite in order to have an impact not only on the environment but also on the economy and the job market in particular. It was estimated that by enforcing higher recycling rates across the Member States of European Union.
50.000 new jobs could be created by 2020 for in the recy- cling value chain including the recycling process itself and waste management. This increase would have an effect on down and upstream sectors as well as on the wider economy, resulting in the creation of an additional 75.000 of indirect jobs concerning construction of new recycling facilities, manufacturing equipment for recycling, maintenance of recycling facilities and equipment, research and innovation, as well as jobs related to administration and management.
Regarding the direct job creation, the most significant increase would occur at sorting and separa- tion of material as well as at collection and recycling. It is worth noting as well that direct jobs are mainly related to low-skilled workers has and thus have an implication on social inclusion and poverty alleviation for a number of people with fewer possibilities of employment. Energy recovery on the other hand is very low job-intensive and does not have an impact on job creation. More with less is possible: creating more jobs and having less waste and in effect less pollution.
Plastic packaging recycling does not begin with collection but design. Not well thought design often leads to leftover residue in emptied packages. Wrong -prepared combinations of polymers and materials like: paper, metal, fibers in packaging can create incompatibilities with efficient recycling processes. Recycling processes are very often hampered by: inseparable composites of polymers, use of unnecessary additives or by combining plas- tics with other materials like: paper, metal, fibers in a way that that does not allow for an easy separation.
The criterion of the packaging design nowadays is its high performance. The new challenge, however, should be to incorporate the recyclability aspect and to make it a require- ment on top of the other performance criteria like: product safety, transport safety, shelf life, marketing & branding as well as recyclability. It is important to balance those various objec- tives of a plastic package.
RecyClass’ aim is to improve the design of packaging so that it is easily recyclable into a quality secondary raw material to then be used in a new plastic product. Far too much of plastic pack- aging is not fit for this purpose and hence destined for energy recovery only – the last but one option in the waste hierarchy pyramid.
RecyClass is an online tool which allows the assess- ment of virtually any plastic package from the point of view of its recyclability. The tool uses the class system from A to G which resembles the energy efficiency rating. In a few simple steps the environmentally-friendly design of a package can be verified
The tool provides advice and recommendations on how to improve design of packaging in case the packaging scores rather poorly in the assessment. In the last step of the evaluation, the package can be certified by an expert in order to use the RecyClass branding.
By improving packaging design, RecyClass will help divert substantial quantities of plastics away from
landfill & incineration and help reach the new higher recycling targets while saving the natural resources
This initiative has been taken by Plastics Recyclers Europe
(Plastics Recyclers Europe , in Brussels was created in 1996 to represent plastics recyclers in Europe. When created the association had 7 members. Currently Plastics Recyclers Europe has more than 120 membersfrom all over the EU and this number will continue to grow.
In the first years of creation, PRE recycled 200 000 tonnes of plastic waste. Today this amount reached 2.5 million tonnes and will continue to grow.)