Plastic packaging in focus when brands and recyclers gathered to discuss circular economy
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Plastic packaging in focus when brands and recyclers gathered to discuss circular economy

For the past year, we at ChemSec have intensified our work on circular economy. Part of this work has been to arrange a series of workshops focusing on different dominant product types that are in the crosshairs of the European Commission’s current policy agenda.

Additional legislation is of course necessary. Circular economy will not work in a good way if, for example, harmful chemicals are allowed to be recycled and put into new products. This would risk the health of unsuspecting people – every day, over and over.

In November, ChemSec gathered representatives from 12 well-known brands and recyclers to talk about circular economy and plastic packaging. These different actors don’t usually meet to discuss these types of issues.

“Circular economy will not work in a good way if, for example, harmful chemicals are allowed to be recycled and put into new products”

By bringing them together, we are exploring new perspectives and ideas that will be necessary to create a circular economy. Here are five takeaways from the workshop:

 

1. Working with monomaterials is a good idea

One of the biggest problems with plastics is that there are so many different types of it – often mixed together. Using packaging materials from a single type of plastic, a monomaterial, would make things easier in the recycling stage. It would be easier to sort the waste and, consequently, our economy would save a lot of resources.

 

2. Cooperation between companies will enable recyclability

Brands working together with recyclers has proven to be a good way of making recycling success stories. By sharing information with each other and having a dialogue on how to handle specific products, it is possible to close loops and make circularity a reality.

 

3. The public sector – a key player

The public sector can greatly influence the success rate of circular economy by having more ambitious strategies.

Firstly, public procurement can be a great resource for the circular economy. But it is necessary that the public sector has clear ideas on what to buy, and why.

Secondly, the public sector often manages or procures collection and disposal of garbage, a key area for the circular economy, which must be better integrated with other actors.

 

4. Biodegradable is not as great as it sounds

Making a product biodegradable is making it more difficult to recycle. This is because the material degrades by itself. It is not fit for reuse.

Of course, biodegradability is a specific property of the material that can be appreciated in itself, but for recycling – it does not work.

 

5. A whitelist could help

It is necessary to limit the amount of different plastics being used for packaging. Creating a white list, with a limited amount of permitted plastics, could be a viable way to increase recycling. It could be regulated by legislation, but also by the industry itself.

A whitelist could also regulate what kind of additives that are being used in the plastics. Harmful additives should of course be prohibited, since we do not want them to be recycled.

 

Take-aways from other recent workshops

ChemSec recently hosted two other workshops on related topics, featuring participants from well-known brands and recyclers. Read more:

Many bright ideas on how to improve recycling of plastics in electronics

5 entanglements for the textile industry on the trail towards circular economy