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Recyclability is as easy as 1, 2, 3…

In a world brimming with plastic products an important question on a lot of people’s minds is: is it recyclable, or not? It seems an easy enough question, and manufacturers are quick to answer in the affirmative. Of course, recyclers know that the reality isn’t that simple. A clear-cut definition of recyclability has now been introduced to tell consumers and producers once and for all when recycling is actually possible.

There are 4 ‘conditions’ any product must meet in order to be deemed recyclable, those are;

  • The product must be made with a plastic that is collected for recycling, has market value and/or is supported by a legislatively mandated program.
  • The product must be sorted and aggregated into defined streams for recycling processes.
  • The product can be processed and reclaimed/recycled with commercial recycling processes.
  • The recycled plastic becomes a raw material that is used in the production of new products.

More than just technically recyclable

These qualifications have been devised by Plastics Recyclers Europe in collaboration with the Association of Plastic Recyclers. Both parties hope the conditions will provide the necessary clarity to ‘guide global efforts of sustainability for plastics in the circular economy’.

‘At the end of the day, recyclability goes beyond just being technically recyclable,’ comments Steve Alexander, ceo of the Association of Plastic Recyclers. ‘Naturally, there must be consumer access to a recycling programme, a recycler must be able to process the material, and there must be an end market,’ he underlines.

Universally endorsed definitions

In recent months, a great number of legislators and producers were eager to pledge their commitment to recyclable products without communicating exactly what they think that means, observes Ton Emans, chairman of Plastics Recyclers Europe. Ultimately, this means that fine words are rather an empty promise.

‘As recyclers, we are a fundamental part of the solution to the issue of sustainability of plastics, and we need for the appropriate audiences to understand what is necessary to label a product or package “recyclable”,’ Emans emphasises. While he welcomes these commitments and encourages others to follow suit, he urges that one thing is clear. ‘Clear and universally endorsed definitions and objectives are needed,’ Emans declares. The four conditions are said to be exactly that.

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