Thursday 16 August 2012

WRAP Recycling of Bioplastic Packaging

Marcel Arsand, Project Manager, Waste & Resources Action Programme (UK) helps businesses, local authorities and communities reduce waste and develop sustainable products.  It was set up by the UK government in 2000 to divert materials from landfill and minimise the use of primary resources in products and buildings by collecting waste for recycling, establishing recycling processes and enterprises, and building the demand for recycled polymers.
In 2010 the UK discarded 2.5 million tonnes of plastic packaging and only 0.6 million tonnes of this were recycled. 0.28 million tonnes of this waste were plastic bottles, giving a bottle recovery rate of 48%.  Further improvements are sought and moves to collect and recycle non-bottle plastics are now underway.  Grants are available for non-bottle plastic reprocessing plants, and the recycling of PP into food-grade material is targeted.  New methods for film collection and reprocessing are being developed (e.g supermarket collection points)

The recent growth in the development and use of bioplastics is creating problems for established recyclers because not all “bioplastic” is recyclable.  Mr Arsand argued that the brand owners who introduce biodgradable bioplastics and the retailers who sell them have a special responsibility to address the issue and improve public understanding.  He suggested confining them to applications and areas where established recycling systems for oil-based polymers are non-existent.  For example the “Belu” mineral water used a PLA bottle suitable for commercial composting, but many got into the PET recycling stream and caused problems.  The use of PLA has now stopped and the Belu bottle is made using 50% recycled polyester.  Similarly the “Innocent” PLA juice bottle introduced in 2007 has been replaced with recycled PET after a negative press due to its causing problems in recycling.
Asked about recycling the components of disposable diapers, Mr Arsand thought it was too complicated and most local authorities would be reluctant to arrange separate collection.

(from a paper given at the Biopolymer World Conference, Venice, April 2012)

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