The recycling duty calls | Antwortung Magazine | October 2023
The obligation to recycle calls
The goal of circularity for product packaging is to reduce the consumption of virgin plastic as much as possible, substituting it with recycled plastic and hence closing the material loop. To support this, product manufacturers are designing packaging to be more recyclable in waste streams, to create post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic that can be re-used in new packaging. The European Commission’s Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR) requires plastic packaging sold in the EU market to be recyclable or reusable from 2030, when plastic food packaging must also contain a minimum of 10% recycled plastic, except for single use beverage bottles and food packaging made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which must contain a minimum of 30%. Other plastic packaging must contain a minimum of 35% and by 2040 these targets will be over 50%.
Many product manufacturers set themselves targets for 2025, which is driving increased demand for quality recycled plastic, specifically for PET, polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP). The introduction of recycled plastic requires significant resources and expertise, with the main issues being finding suitable quality material for product applications while keeping costs to a minimum.
Sourcing sufficient quality materials is a complex process for brand owners and manufacturers, involving identification, verification, approval and control of recycled materials. This can take up to twelve months for PE and PP and success is not guaranteed, as each recycler produces a unique material grade based on the feedstock of recycled packaging collected and sorted, and on their equipment and processes. Price also plays a role: high quality PE and PP with stable and good properties can be twice as expensive as virgin plastic. To increase their material supply, recyclers must invest in quality and capacity and rely on long-term commitments to purchase quantities. Manufacturers, on the other hand, try to secure materials in short cycles at lowest prices.
Resycure, a venture from the BASF Incubator Chemovator GmbH, supports brand owners and manufacturers identify and qualify the optimum recycled plastic in terms of both cost and quality. The Start-up works with recyclers to improve material quality, for example PE and PP for use in cosmetics and household products, which often face problems with removing odour and contaminants.
In addition, Resycure’s approach is to aggregate demand from multiple manufacturers with similar requirements, justifying investments in capacity and improved processes for recyclers and guarantee security of supply, as well as enable favourable prices. The goal is to find long-term solutions between manufacturers and recyclers, to support both parties in improving quality and to increase the use of recycled plastic. This will ultimately help to close the loop for plastic packaging.
Author: Robert Hughes
He is a packaging expert and Product Lead at the start-up Resycure