Expanding the collection portfolio of plastic packaging: Impact on quantity and quality of sorted plastic waste fractions

Martijn Roosen, Nicolas Mys, Kerstin Kleinhans, Irdanto Saputra Lase, Sophie Huysveld, M.T. Brouwer, E.U. Thoden van Velzen, Kevin M. van Geem, Jo Dewulf, Kim Ragaert, Ann Dumoulin, Steven Demeester*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Expanding the curbside collection system for household plastic packaging could help in accomplishing the ambitious recycling targets set by the European Union. In this study, the effects of such expansion in terms of quality and quantity of sorted plastic waste fractions were investigated. By applying a validated sorting model, the flows of packages in Belgium from their use phase until the output of the sorting plant and the quantity and composition of sorted waste fractions were simulated. These data were subsequently used to calculate existing performance indicators, such as grade and recovery, as well as new indicators, such as the Simpson's Diversity Index (SDI), which is a measure for the compositional diversity of sorted waste fractions. The highest SDI was calculated for the fraction named ‘other films’, namely 82%, showing that this fraction comprised the most diverse polymer mixture. Results indicated that certain sorted fractions achieve high product grade levels, e.g. more than 99% for the PS rigid fraction, whereas others had significantly lower product grades of approximately 80% for the PE films. Material Flow Analysis showed that by expanding the collection portfolio the collection rate of plastic packaging increased from 33.6 to 64.4 m%, of which 77.3% is simulated to be separated in the targeted waste fractions. However, this will be insufficient to meet the recycling target of 50% by 2025 as in total only 49.8% of plastic packaging is sorted correctly. Hence, additional improvements in both recycling technologies and packaging design are needed to further increase plastic recycling rates.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106025
Number of pages13
JournalResources, Conservation and Recycling
Volume178
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022

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