Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE), Brussels, has published a paper identifying the prerequisites to increase recycling of flexible polyethylene into a high-quality raw material while ensuring a sustainable and cost-effective process.
With converters’ demanding nearly 9 million metric tons of linear-low-density polyethylene (LLDPE), the material is the second largest resin processed in the European Union and demonstrates great recycling potential. However, according to the PRE, the present recycling rate in Europe is roughly 31 percent, and higher targets are difficult to reach because a number of challenges must overcome.
“Plastic film waste is still perceived as a demanding and difficult stream to treat,” says Ton Emans, president of the PRE. “However, we in Europe have proven that even stretch film recycling is possible. Nonetheless, to reach for the additional quantities from postconsumer packaging, we need a strong commitment of the value chain to work towards making this material fully sustainable.”
The main bottlenecks specified in the paper are low collection rates and material quality, lack of design for recycling and the need for recycling technology development.
To address these issues, PRE says harmonized collection and sorting processes at the EU level must be introduced to increase the quantity and quality of collected material. Secondly, plastic packaging design largely controls the degree to which packaging can be recycled; therefore, specific design for recycling guidelines must be followed when manufacturing products and when introducing innovations. Lastly, although the advancements in recycling and sorting technologies have greatly improved in the past years, more investments and research and development are needed to continuously enhance the quality of recycled material, PRE says.
The organization adds that the industry’s effort will have to be further strengthened by an adequate legislative framework that will create conditions for further expansion. The member states and regions will equally have to thoroughly implement the EU legislation.
The new legislative measures introduced by the Waste Package, the Plastics Strategy and the Single Use Directive oblige the industry to take immediate and decisive steps in production and waste management of plastics packaging, PRE says.