The ecology of a changing world… With a properly functioning waste stream and new recycling technologies, the amount of recycled plastic can be increased enormously. In the longer term, this is important for online purchases that will be shipped with reusable packaging, such as nestable distribution bins.

Plastic waste can be recycled very well if this old plastic is sorted and does not end up in the residual waste. That is why effective plastics recycling is one of the biggest challenges. Every day huge amounts of plastic waste end up in nature, in landfills, in the oceans and also as microplastics in our food chains. Huge carpets of plastic waste float in the oceans. An example of this is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is now three times the size of France and contains 1.8 trillion plastic parts, or 250 for every inhabitant on the planet. It is the largest garbage dump on our planet. This fact underlines once again the importance of establishing well-functioning recycling systems and effective recycling of plastic.

Only 16 percent of plastic waste is recycled

Only 25 percent of plastic waste is recycled. Worldwide it is even less. But according to one study, official recycling rates are relatively high, reaching 45 percent according to the study. However, these figures only refer to deliveries to recycling companies, not the total amount actually recycled. In addition, manufacturers, including storage bins, have until now tended to use virgin plastic granulate for their products instead of recycled material, which is often a mix of colors.

The low price of new plastic and the expensive sorting and reconditioning of used plastic in Europe have led to a large proportion of plastic waste being shipped abroad. According to these data, Germany is the third largest exporter of plastic waste in the world after the US and Japan. However, the main importing countries to date, China and Malaysia, have imposed import bans or extremely limited quantities purchased. The study’s authors describe the planet’s pollution with plastic as one of the greatest environmental crises. “At current and projected growth rates, plastic production will emit 52.5 gigatons of carbon dioxide by 2050.

There is an urgent need for function cycles and new technologies

It is therefore urgent that much more plastic is recycled and reused for new products. To achieve this, the recycling cycles have to work in a real and global way. In addition, new effective processes need to be developed for the recycling of plastic, so that manufacturers are happy to use granulate from recycled plastic.

Diversity of recycled plastic raw materials is increasing

Although the problem of waste still exists, there is a much greater variety of raw materials (ground and recycled materials) on the market today than ten years ago. In the past, companies have only ground their own production waste or customer returns and immediately reused that material. This is then called ground material.

Reclaimed plastics are recycled plastics that are first ground and then melted. Alternatively, the material is sorted, melted, added and reconstituted. Compounding is the addition of aggregates (fillers, additives…) to obtain the desired properties. Depending on the origin, a distinction is made between post-consumer raw materials and post-industrial raw materials.

New processes for plastics recycling

There are already companies that have perfected complicated plastics recycling (mostly polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP)) and compounding of post-consumer recyclables so that plastics recycling can be offered according to the demands of the market.

Because the production of plastics does not always have to be based on crude oil. Due to the precise sorting and the optimized separation, degassing and filtration, a particularly high purity of the plastic granules can be achieved during recycling.

Special recipes and processes make it possible to adapt these according to need in terms of fluidity, stability, UV and heat resistance or coloring. Users or manufacturers of plastic products can also apply for an environmental label and thus distinguish themselves positively from the competition. Significant amounts of greenhouse gases are saved in the production of the recycled products and in addition, the upcycling is carried out by using it as a sustainable plastic product. Cheap disposable items are thus converted into high-quality items that replace many disposable products due to their durability.

Research is currently underway into chemical recycling, which will allow plastics for which no recycling solutions currently exist to be recycled, in addition to mechanical recycling. Plastic waste is converted into raw materials or monomers, for example by thermochemical processes, hydrolysis or solvolysis.

The resulting starting material can be used for the production of new plastics. Examples include contaminated plastics, multi-layer food packaging or composite plastics for the automotive and construction industry. The method uses thermochemical processes to convert plastic waste into raw materials (pyrolysis oil). This makes it possible to produce high-quality plastics, for example for packaging.

Upcycling with BITO bins

In the case of reusable use, it is essential to ensure that the recycling cycle really works well, as with BITO reusable storage bins and transport bins. These are made of environmentally friendly recyclable plastic (PP granulate). Moreover, at the end of their life they do not produce unnecessary waste, but are ground and this material is then used to produce new articles. There are many options for realizing reusable and deposit systems with matching plastic containers made of high-quality recycled material. BITO reusable boxes are extremely durable. At BITO, the customer receives a five-year warranty on every storage bin. The MB reusable distribution box has more than 300 cycles. This means that 300 disposable packaging is saved per distribution container. There is a closed raw material cycle for the trays. BITO also uses processed recycled plastics or other recycling systems from around the world on request. This increases the share of plastic waste that is recycled as a raw material. With these BITO storage bins you are upcycling in a particularly environmentally friendly way.

Literature:

1 Only a fraction of plastic waste is recycled, Zeit Online, 6.6.2019

2 Plastic Atlas 2019, Facts and figures about the world of synthetic polymers, Federation for Environment and Nature Conservation Germany (Bund) and Heinrich Böll Foundation, Berlin, 2019

3 ChemCycling: Henkel and Alpla present a special Perwoll bottle, Packaging Journal, October 21, 2019