Empty plastic bottles for recycling

Recycling can be an extreme sport!

Written by Marika Hahtala

We are all responsible citizens aren’t we? Well, we do take our trash out, we clean up our mess – but then again, somehow, a huge waste issue has surged a few years back especially in Asia and we have noticed that the incineration of waste actually causes a lot of excess heat, ashes and CO2 emissions.

How did that happen – and how can we overcome the issue. The only solution is really to take true responsibility and invest in the treatment of our waste – which is not actually waste, but a valuable, reusable and recyclable feedstock and raw material.

I have said many times that all materials that contain carbon can be recycled. There are numerous technologies available to treat all plastics, even the most dirty ones, and mixed, multilayers, paper and board composites, metallized films etc. They can all be treated to reproduce new plastics. These technologies just need to be employed in the right place, depending on the type of waste which is available and the type of product that companies are willing to purchase, be it monomers or hydrocarbon oils of some sort – for further processing back into new materials.

Today 90% of all materials are used only once. Circular economy, combined with the sustainable and responsible use of natural, bio-based feedstocks, are the future of the material production industry. Only when it comes to plastics, this model can enable globally over 100 billion savings annually for the entire value chain – which is then turned into a value-circle. Additionally the entire society can also benefit from the impact with a cleaner environment, lower emissions and mitigation of climate change.

The investments required to deliver the required circularity starting from the education of people, collection and logistics, followed by recycling assets and production of bio-based raw materials are massive – even summing up to $50 billion per year during the next 10-15 years until the issue is solved. This requires investors joining forces, good technologies, engineering capacity and a lot of will and faith in delivering the goals. The investments must exceed the market growth, preferably by a factor of x2 to have a sufficient impact in reasonable time.

The initiative driving the circular bioeconomy of plastics, PlasticsToBio was initiated in 2019 by Pöyry – today AFRY – and now a number of companies are already working with projects in the right direction, but more efforts are welcome!

You can take recycling like an extreme sport. At our home, our waste bin is emptied only 6 times a year – and even then it is practically empty. We can all collect and support recycling!

(article is originally published in Pactec exhibition pages by Tomi Nyman)