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Market volatility met with strong sense of ambition

The Netherlands – The low price of virgin plastic has left its mark on the recycled resins market, according to Valerie Bürstner of German recycling firm Interseroh. Demand for the recycled-content resins produced by ALBA has gone down by as much as 20%, she told delegates at the annual Plastics Recycling Conference in Rotterdam.

ALBA Group sorts approximately 550 000 tons per year worth of post-consumer packaging in its four German sorting plants, thus covering over 40% of the country’s packaging waste stream.

The yield has a purity of 90%, which allowed the firm to trade more than 75 000 tons of recycled packaging last year.

Bürstner cited the company’s latest big project: a co-operation between Coca-Cola and Stabilo. ‘We use the bottle caps from Coca-Cola bottles to create the material that is used for the body of Stabilo marker. These are made of 83% “procyclen” resin,’ she noted.

In her view, it would help tremendously if the governments of European member states were to set a quota for recycled resin use for manufacturers. This would boost end markets for collected material.

UK packaging

Roger Evans, director of Recapture Plastics, repeated the sentiments about ‘great market volatility’, which caused the price for recycled PET to collapsed in the UK. He announced that overall UK plastics arisings are estimated to total 3.7 million tonnes per year.

‘Packaging is main source of UK waste plastic, representing circa 2.2 million tonnes per year,’ Evans told delegates. He observed that non-packaging waste plastic arising in UK estimated to be 1.5 million tonnes. ‘UK plastic reprocessing capacity – for both packaging and non-packaging plastic – is estimated at almost 600 000 tonnes,’ the entrepreneur stated.

Evans added that Recapture Plastics manages to produce around 8000 tonnes of finished product per year. Investing in leading automatic sorting technology was said to be ‘most important’ in staying ahead of the game.

Prospects for ELV plastics

Meanwhile, today’s plastics make up around 50% of the volume of a car, but contribute only 12% of the vehicle’s weight, pointed out Prof Dr. Kim Ragaert of Ghent University in Belgium. ‘The current recycling rate of post-user plastics from automotive shredder residue is 8.7%,’ she added.

Ragaert proposed ‘changing lanes is vital’ for end-of-life vehicles (ELV) plastics. She emphasised that design for recycling is a ‘powerful tool’ to increase both the applications for existing ELV plastics and the recyclability of currently incinerated thermoset-based parts.

Paul Mayhew of MBA Polymers argued that there remain quite a few challenges when attempting to recycle automotive shredder residue. For one, there is a wide variety of plastics in the stream, besides, there are strict purity and property requirements while the market is still dealing with ‘legacy substances of concern’ like heavy metals.

‘Also, we encounter residual automotive fluids in plastics,’ Mayhew noted. ‘And things like rubber, paint, coatings, and barrier layers show up too.’

A more detailed review of the Plastics Recycling Conference will be published in the December issue of Recycling International.

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