Packaging-material recycling

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research gives government and industry detailed insight into packaging-material recycling chains, allowing calculated steps to increase recycling.

Whether it’s mushrooms, orange juice or computers, almost all consumer goods are packaged. Annually, in the Netherlands alone, circa 1,100 kilotons of paper and carton, 500 kilotons of glass, 200 kilotons of metal and 450 kilotons of plastic are used as packaging material. Recycling these materials can provide substantial environmental benefits. In order to increase total recycling, reduce recycling costs and to raise circular-reuse, action is needed in different parts of the chain. The key is understanding which collection system provides the highest yield: deposit; separate collection; or recovery from household waste? How to match sorting and recycling technologies to specific packaging materials? Is recycling beverage cartons from multiple collection systems technically feasible? Wageningen Food & Biobased Research gives government and industry the insight needed to develop strategies to increase recycling.

Recycling and waste streams

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research understands precisely in which waste streams and sorted products different packaging materials end up. We provide scientifically-based insights in recycling chains, the selection of a collection system and the effects of development and improvement of sorting and reprocessing technologies.

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research follows a unique integral approach. We oversee the complete packaging-material-recycling chain and have the in-house knowledge and facilities to replicate entire recycling processes, from sorting and mechanical processing to reprocessing and quality evaluation of the recyclate. We are uniquely able to measure the effects of interventions on individual chain parts. We have extensive knowledge of plastics, beverages cartons, glass and paper.

Beverage cartons and plastics

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research conducted part of a pilot study of beverage carton-recycling in 2013, commissioned by the Knowledge Institute Sustainable Packaging (KIDV). We demonstrated that recycling of beverage cartons is technically feasible, albeit via multiple collection systems. In 2014 we investigated, at the request of waste processor Attero and the organizations Nedvang and Kunststof Hergebruik (Plastic Recycling) BV, if recovery of plastic packaging material from household waste is a valuable adjunct to source separation. This appears to be the case for most municipalities in the Netherlands. For the Danish company, Dong Energy, we analyzed the quality of plastic obtained via the enzymatic-waste-treatment process REnescience.

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research is a partner in the European research project Open-Bio, in which we study the effect of bioplastics on the quality of plastic recyclate. Via the public-private partnership TI Food and Nutrition, commissioned by the KIDV and together with the University of Groningen, we are researching how to improve consumer participation in the collection of packaging material. We also develop scenarios for optimization of the overall recycling chain.