Hier finden Sie Antworten von Experten auf allgemeine wie auch fachspezifische Fragen rund um das Thema Recyclingfähigkeit von Kunststoffverpackungen:
1. General Questions
1.1 How can we improve economics of the whole system?
In Europe there is a trend to broaden the collection from cherry-picking (valuable PET- beverage bottles and PE-HD-bottles only) to other streams of low to no-value materials (PTT and film/flexibles). This will result in higher costs in the fist step. From a societal view these costs partly are occurring anyhow, because the streams will otherwise have to be treated and paid for as waste by municipalities. With these materials entering the EPR-scheme area of responsibility, the following standardization steps on all levels and for all players in the value chain become even more important:
- Use of a few main polymers: PE, PP and PET (but only for beverage bottles), avoid low-market volume materials which are difficult to sort out and end up as bad yield
- Collect all plastic (packaging) separately
- Standardize sorting to create reliable, quality managed and larger input waste
streams for recycling (do not re-invent the wheel in every country)
- Build larger recycling factories, like competing materials paper, metals, glass have
already, using economies of scale
- Integrate recyclates into primary polymer production
- Reduce bad yield in sorting and recycling (see also
- Avoid paper/plastic combinations (composites, labels,...)
- Reduce usage of pigments and inks (temperature unstable above 180 degrees)
- design packaging in a way that marketing messages and main body of the pack can be separated in a mechanical recycling process (water soluble inks, density difference between sleeves/labels and main body)
- Use markers to make fully body sleeve send sorting message for the specific polymer used in main packaging body
- Design packaging that is easy to empty
- Avoid density-modifying additives in plastic packaging
1.2 When will there be recycling solutions for PET blister packages?
Sorting and recycling of PET pots, tubs, trays and blisters currently still encounters difficulties e.g. identification of multilayer material, viscosity, contamination with labels, pigments, prints and filled goods. Clean monolayer PET–PTT and blisters could be added to a PET bottle recycling stream, but only to a lesser extent. It seems more fruitful to single out these packaging (at additional cost) once sustainable options are found. This is currently not the case with no light at the end of the tunnel. The problem would be solved if the above recommendation to concentrate on perfectly easy to recycle polymers PE and PP would be heeded for non-beverage bottles.
1.3 How can we introduce another driver than “light-weight” in sustainable policies?
Like safety, circularity needs to come first! Packaging design decisions are often backed up by Life Cycle Analyses (LCA). Given the current set-up of LCA, light-weight packaging and food waste reduction is favored over recycling issues, and LCAs do not take into account consumer behavior and littering. Either this changes or circularity has to become a separate, essential requirement on top.
- I believe that LCA should not be used to favor unrecyclable options over recyclable options.
- How can a valuable packaging be designed and still be recyclable? This paradigm shift can be introduced by industry itself, but might be set by the legislator (e.g. by changing the Eco Design directive).
- Changing the thinking in companies towards more circularity is a matter that has to be implemented top-down, e.g. by changing incentives for packaging procurement.
- Check how and which packaging is over-designed and over-functional at the cost of its circularity. Creativity of packaging designers has to be unleashed to find new and circular designs, which only give the functionality that is actually needed.
- Use circularity as a positive marketing message but beware of green-washing.
1.4 Are we all informed of all the full chain critical points?
No, packaging chains are highly complex. Due to the sequential steps in creating a packaging, filling it, using it, etc., communication is also mostly sequential, i.e. between raw material supplier and packaging producer, between packaging producer and filler, collectors, sorters and recyclers. We need a more holistic communication approach in order to create a better understanding of sustainable solutions and their implementation. Platforms for this dialogue are e.g. PCEP (Polyolefins in a circular economy platform), CEFLEX, The Round Table for Eco-design of IK (Industrievereinigung
Kunststoffverpackungen), but also NPEC (New Plastics Economy by Ellen McArthur Foundation).
1.5 Do you think that plastics recycling is possible all around the world?
Formal and informal structures already carry out plastic recycling all around the world. Of course, the level of technology and automation used is very different. However, even under very modest conditions people with entrepreneurial and engineering spirit do recycling of plastics. To get a better idea of it check out this video: www.youtube.com/watch or www.youtube.com/watch. The challenge is to expand these approaches to plastic packaging and items that, because of their design, do not easily find their markets after use: They are “not worth” collecting, sorting and recycling. Unfortunately, by volume, that is the vast majority of packaging. Even in developed countries in Europe there still is reluctance to expand collection and sorting to these (in many cases flexible and PTT) packaging streams.
2.1 How to engage more brand owners and retailers?
We would recommend inviting the brand owners and retailers to participate in circular economy platforms like PECEP and CEFLEX. It is here where decision criteria up and down the value chain are being discussed, knowledge is transferred and common ground is looked for. Implementing those learnings in participating companies will create a pull effect because they will act as role models for circular behavior and – via competition – make others follow.
2.2 What information is needed to help redesign packaging to improve recyclability?
Recyclability is just one piece of the cake. To understand how to redesign packaging in order to attain the highest degree of circularity possible it is crucial to know the general technical conditions of collecting, sorting and recycling. A, in theory on a lab scale, fully recyclable packaging is nice but we must also make sure that the sorting plants are able to identify this type of packaging and sort it into the right waste stream (fraction). If packaging designers operate within this framework, we would automatically increase the recyclable share and reduce bad yield in our waste streams. Information about Recyclability is provided by Recoup in their paper on “Recyclability by Design” (downloadable under http://www.recoup.org/downloads/info- required?id=478&referrer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.recoup.org%2Fp%2F275%2Fpublications) or by the design tool “Recyclass” provided by PRE (Plastics Recyclers Europe – www.recyclass.eu)
3.1 Design for Recyclability (DFR) is moving the responsibility to the designer / Brand-Owner. How can the raw material supplier be of help?
Raw material suppliers are also active in packaging material design and compounding. Their overwhelming knowledge of polymer technology and their R&D capacities can be useful when it comes to developing new, more circular materials. Blending virgin and recyclates on the producer level is an option, developing physical/chemical large scale processes may probably only be done by large petro-chemical companies.
3.2 What must product managers know to enable better recyclability?
Please check answers number 1.1, 1.3., 2.2
4. What is the biggest problem in collecting?
There are three major issues, which need improvement:
4.1 Availability of collection infrastructure: At a European scale, a lot of member states do not have their population fully covered in terms of collection infrastructure for PTT and flexible packaging. A lot of member states initially focused on bottle collection, regarding PTT and film collection as too costly. More and more collection schemes integrate PTT and flexibles, but there is still a long way to go.
4.2 In 2017 it should have become common knowledge that plastics must be collected separately from (wet and dry) normal household waste. There are technical, legal and hygiene issues with the so called comingled collection which at the end of the day all reduce the willingness of the converting industry to use recyclates coming from that type of collection. Paper and glass are collected separately in the vast majority of regions, plastics deserve the same care.
4.3 Education of citizens: Unfortunately, the quality of collected light-weight packaging is often low. The number of unwanted objects is high, packaging is often not (fully) emptied, and different packaging types are either not separated or stacked into each other. PRE-Schemes should educate their citizens in order to create a better input quality for sorting centers, which should then translate into better qualities for
recyclers. Municipalities also need to focus more on educating instead of seeing collection and sorting as a business opportunity only and leaving the rest to the industry.
5. Recycling Technology
5.1 What are recyclers’ biggest problems today?
5.2 Sleeves materials to be chosen for HDPE, PP, PS, else?
As long as sleeves cannot convey a sorting message related to the packaging’s main body material:
Given the availability of markers needed to communicate via a PET-sleeve that the packaging’s main body is e.g. PP, there should be a significant density difference between sleeve and main body.
5.3 Level of residue? Complete emptying?
It is obvious that residue will not be recycled at the recycler’s and hence reduces production yield. With packaging getting thinner and thinner, yield drops even further. It is therefore highly recommended to design easy to empty packaging, also to prevent general waste of packed products. How can you justify the following packaging for liverpaté:
- super efficient, down gauged film
- highly functional PET/PE/..../barrier
- paper-label for marketing information, PET-Layer for gloss
- extended shelf-live
if it is so flexible that it cannot be emptied and not be conveniently handled any more by the consumer? Prevention of food waste is not only measured in shelf life.
5.4 What is the critical point or points in recycling PTTs?
Compared to other packaging types (like films or PP/PE-bottles) PTT (incl. smaller flexibles) are much more versatile when it comes to their design. In that fraction, all circular design flaws are concentrated. Please read 1.1.
5.5 What shall be the message on Black containers?
Optical sorting devices work with near infrared light being reflected into a camera lens and analyzed. Black and very dark colored items absorb that light instead of reflecting it. Hence, the container will not be detected as to polymer type and end up in bad yield or in a black fraction that consist of all black items be they PE, PP or PET. The resulting recyclates will be bad in yield, quality and achievable price.
There might be solutions in the future (better optical sorting, tracer-based sorting, etc.). However, these will still create a black stream suitable only for black recyclate applications. Therefore, today and in the future, black containers should be avoided.
5.6 What is better: rPET Trays or PP Trays?
Today, PET bottle recyclates find one of their larger markets in PET-Thermoforms (PTT made of rPET). Unfortunately, these containers are not being recycled (see above 1.2.) whilst, at the same time, they replace perfectly easy to recycle PP and PE-PTT.
We would therefore recommend the use of PP trays rather than rPET trays.
In France Valorplast is trying to force PET-Bottle-recyclers to accept trays in their streams. It remains to be seen how this works out.
5.7 Is separation by density (water bath) still needed in the future?
Density separation helps separating unwanted material from wanted material. In addition, the water has a cleaning effect on the flaked material. Even with optical sorting improving at high speed, we believe that the identification of multilayer packaging, sleeved packaging, additive-filled packaging, or other packaging combinations (e.g. plastics/paper), without density separation will not work efficiently.
5.8 Are multilayers a NO GO for recycling?
Multilayers are a no go for recycling if layers are of different polymer types and compounded physically or not mechanically separable. Even if a certain degree of compatibility is given, the glues used will have a negative effect as well. Different polymer types will contaminate recyclates and reduce quality if not separable in the recycling process. Certain barrier-layers can be accepted. Please see “Recyclass” for further details.
5.9 What is the problem with opaque PET? What is the solution?
Opaque PET is, because of its color additives, a contaminant of other streams and the most unwanted material in PET recycling. If opaque PET was separated into a single stream, recycling options would still be scarce. Separating opaque into a single stream adds additional costs to the system at currently little gain in recycling options. Today, opaque PET mostly ends as sorting waste and is incinerated.
If opaque PET spreads further into the market, it should be singled out and recycling should be found, all this at additional costs.
5.10 In which application are the PTTs recyclers no way?
The legislator has created high barriers for certain product applications:
- Packaging with food contact
- Children’s toys
- Medical appliances
OEMs have additional requirements as to odour and colour. There are still a lot of challenges to be tackled which will take more R&D than in the past.
5.11 Ability to recycle PE and PP together? Markets?
PE and PP can be and are currently recycled into recyclates replacing virgin material. Typical end markets are transport & logistics (pallets, crates etc.), construction (buckets, tools, spacers etc.), household & garden (buckets, composters etc.) and various other technical applications.
5.12 How can we keep functionality using monoresins instead of multilayers?
Packaging designers have been very creative designing today’s packaging. We do not believe that packaging will become simple again, but more design efforts have to focus on the circularity of packaging. We support and contribute to a more intense communication between packaging designers, brand owners, and recyclers.