Next steps for an organised Circular Economy: Plastics recyclers’ Bales quality guidelines for EU waste collectors and sorters
Plastics recyclers released a set of bales quality guidelines to drive market transformation towards circularity.
“It is time to understand that each product needs to be sorted towards a specific stream to keep the value of plastics,” said Ton Emans, PRE President and Chairman LDPE Working Group, “These guidelines are the first step towards programming circular economy. Circularity of plastics can only be achieved through quality. Defined and harmonised quality is needed to build sustainable waste management operations across Europe”
Casper van den Dungen, PRE Vice-President and Chairman of the PET Working Group said: “PET recycling market has been growing as a result of focusing on the high-end applications of recycled PET. Nevertheless, is it necessary to improve the quality of the input that reaches recycling plants. This will drive quality of the collected and sorted PET.’’ He added: ‘’In line with the PRE Design for Recycling guidelines, which can differ per product colour, also colour based guidelines were developed to preserve the value of these materials.”
Herbert Snell, Chairman of the HDPE/PP Working Group, added: “The recent limitation of exports of collected plastics to China has shown that quality definition was too poor to get accepted by advanced recycling companies. Loss of value but also loss of potential feedstock is the price the consumer will have to pay in the long run.”
The guidelines developed by PRE specify the main properties that define the origins and the characteristics of the sorted waste. The guidelines are based on the following features:
- Impurities (%), to define kind of impurities and their expected maximum quantities
- Transport, to define traceability in the supply chain
Supplier, to define a company responsible for the specification
These guidelines’ structure can be applied to various collection systems in Europe. This includes deposit, kerbside or drop-off systems. The structure is also fit to accommodate other collected plastics. As collected volumes will rise in the future, more segmentation of specific product could be created to optimise their value. Currently the bales characterization guidelines are available for four different resins: clear, light blue, clear/blue and mixed coloured PET Bottles; PE-HD Packaging; PE film; PP film. Furthermore, specific guidelines for PP Packaging, PO Pots, Tubs & Trays, PET trays and opaque PET bottles are being developed.
PRE is calling the plastics waste collectors and sorters to join this initiative in order to drive circular economy for plastics. By improving the definition of collected and sorted plastic the industry will take one step closer to develop standards which are needed to operate in a system of circularity.