According to information provided by Plastics Europe, about 27 million tonnes of plastics were collected in Europe in 2016 – a trend that has been increasing for years.
Although an impressive number by itself, this represents less than 30% of the total EU plastic volume put into circulation, meaning over 70% of plastics never get collected.
Of the 27 tonnes collected material, the majority is sent into incineration (41%). Another 27% is dumped in landfills, with only a third of the material (32%) being processed in recycling.
Estimates suggest that up to 95% of plastic value is lost annually. In other words: between 70 and 105 billion Euros are wasted each year (Source: Ellen McArthur Foundation: The new plastics economy 2016).
How can this still be the case, despite increased environmental awareness and tightened policies? Some reasons Interseroh has found:
One main cause is inadequate packaging. Poor packaging design can trick and confuse sorting facilities, leading to unsatisfactory outputs. The use of oversized labels and black plastics, for instance, means sorting machines cannot recognize a packaging’s material.
Another packaging design factor is the use of various materials on a single packaging item, which can make correct separation difficult for consumers. For instance, consider a regular Nutella jar. Is it composed from five materials: glass body, plastic lid, cardboard lid inlay, aluminium composite protective film and paper label. While in theory, the consumer could separate these fractions and dispose them in separate bins, this is hardly practical.
In other cases, material separation is impossible altogether, such as with aluminium-coated snack bags.
Lastly, consumers also bear a debt, as even the most recycling friendly packaging sometimes gets disposed in the incorrect bin and therefore lost from recycling collection.
Hoping to reduce the impact of plastic, organisations and institutions on all levels continue to introduce policies and targets.
On a global perspective, the World Economic Forum recently presented their PACE program (Platform for accelerating the circulat economy) at the 2018 annual meeting in Davos. Within the programm, 11 leading consumer good giants have pledged to make 100% of their packaging completely recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025. The companies, which are responsible for 6 million tonnes of plastic packaging annually, include: Amcor, Ecover, Evian, L’Oreal, Mars, M & S, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company, Unilever, Walmart, and Werner & Mertz.
On a European level, the European Commission adopted the ‘Strategy for Plastic in a Circular Economy’ in 2017. On of the strategy paper’s goals is to achieve 100% recyclability of plastic packaging circulated in the European Union by 2030. The infrastructure of collection, sorting and recycling is already in place and merely needs to be updated. Actually new policy targets will come in the form of product design guidelines/ standards, further reductions of single-use packaging and the promotion of biodegradable materials.
This is where Interseroh gets involved with the service Made4Recycling! Addressing the issue of packaging design, we have developed a consulting and testing service for clients seeking advice and recommendations on the recyclability of their packaging. Our services include:
Evaluation of your packaging’s recyclability and sorting performance, tested in our laboratories and state-of-the-art sorting facilities
Individual consultation on materials, design guidelines and market experience
An action plan with suggestions or your purchasing, marketing and packaging design departments, tailored to your product portfolio
Tailored seminars with details of technical issues and regulatory matters, visits of a sorting or processing plant, strategies and initial solutions
Get in touch – we would love to hear from you!
Further information about our service„Made4Recycle“: