The plastic industry is one of the most powerful industries in Europe, ranking 7th, at similar levels with the pharmaceutical. In 2018, according to data from Plastics Europe, plastic production in Europe reached almost 62 million tonnes. In the same year, 29.1 million tonnes of plastic post-consumer waste was collected in the EU28+NO/CH in order to be treated. Out of these 29,1 million tonnes, about 32.0% were recycled, 43% ended into energy recovery, while 25% ended into landfills. So positive steps were made ahead in the past years, as from 2006 to 2018 plastic recycling has doubled (Conversio Market & Strategy GmbH). But what can Europe do more to get even better at putting plastic back into the economy and avoid landfill?
To avoid landfill waste, it takes a common effort and a higher involvement from consumers, administrations, plastic producers, waste management companies, NGOs. Along with recycling technologies that play a big role in solving this issue.
And fortunately, there are some specific solutions that proved to be working and could be enhanced and replied in each of the European countries.
For example, let’s take a look at landfill restrictions – countries with implemented landfill restrictions of recyclable and recoverable waste proved to have average higher recycling rates of plastic post-consumer waste in 2018 (source Conversio Market & Strategy GmbH). And Switzerland, Austria, and the Netherlands are top examples.
Partnerships, such as the Circular Plastics Alliance that aims to boost the EU market for recycled plastics to 10 million tonnes by 2025, are also part of the solution. Organizations within the alliance have pledged to make all the efforts to improve collection waste, sorting, recycling, change the packaging into one that can be recycled or monitor the recycled plastics sold in the EU.
Or the European Plastics Pact, that Italy is part of as of March 2020, that brings governments and companies together that work towards four main goals: the circular design of plastic products and packaging, the responsible use of plastics, plastic recycling, and the use of recycled plastics.
Waste collected separately at home
Another best in class example is that of the waste that is collected separately at home / or by commercial companies, as this is where most recycled plastic comes from. Research states (The Circular Economy for Plastics – A European Overview) that waste recycling rates are 10 times higher when plastic is collected separately. So, the role of the citizens, as well as that of public organizations in designing policies, is key.
And let’s not forget about the recycling technologies that value the plastics and treat it accordingly to send it back into the economy for us to reuse. Among these technologies in the recycling process, a special role is taken up by the screening machine that increases the quality of the material.
When it comes to pet and plastics, Ecostar screening systems achieve high standards of separation in limited space, maximizing the value of each type of plastic recovered. One of the projects that Ecostar was involved in, is the one in Revet Spa, a recycling company in Pontedera Pisa, where a stationary dynamic disc screen Hexact was installed. The company has a production of 55.000 T/Y of various materials such as glass, plastics, and aluminum cans, and Hexact is working at a capacity of 25T /H and two screening fractions of 0-20mm and 0-40 mm.
Europe has already taken some big steps ahead into recovering plastics and, forces combined, it could reach some of the targets set for the next years. There’s a long way to eliminate landfill altogether, but this mission is not impossible, as long as we are all aware of the responsibilities and effort we must put in.