Dutch households collected much more plastic packaging waste in 2017 compared to 2014. This is the result of a detailed analysis carried out by researchers from Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, Technical University of Hamburg and Ghent University. The quantity of washed milled goods increased from 75 kilotons in 2014 to 103 kilotons in 2017, an increase of 37%. Washed milled goods are intermediate products, used in the recycling chain to make new packaging and consumer items.
According to researcher Marieke Brouwer of Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, the increase in collected plastic packaging waste is a direct result of changes in municipal collection schemes. "Many municipalities have started to co-collect plastic, metals and beverage cartons (named PMD with a Dutch abbreviation) instead of just plastic packaging."
Downside: also more "sorting residue"
The downside is that more residual waste was also collected in the PMD. As a result, larger quantities of sorting residues have arisen at sorting facilities. This waste stream from the recycling system must be incinerated. In 2014 it was still 19 kilotons of sorting residue. In 2017 this had risen to 55 kilotons. On top of that, another 15 kilotons of collected PMD were too heavily contaminated for recycling. As a result, a total of 70 kilotons were removed from the recycling stream and burned.
Quality recycled plastic stable
The analysis shows that the polymer purity of the washed milled goods has hardly changed between 2014 and 2017. Despite the fact that the recycled material was more polluted, sorting and recycling companies still managed to obtain the same quality of recycled plastic. A few packaging materials are now being recycled into new packages. PET trays and bottles are made from collected PET bottles and PE bottles are made from collected PE bottles. However, the majority is used for the production of consumer items, such as automotive parts, bins, crates and garden furniture.
Steps to be taken
Although more recycled plastics have been produced, there is still a lack of recycled plastics with a high polymeric purity.
Researcher Marieke Brouwer of Wageningen Food & Biobased Research: “A more circular economy for plastic packages can only evolve if all the stakeholders act co-operatively ”. Households can contribute to a better quality of recycled material by throwing less residual waste in the PMD, and even more material can be collected if all households would participate in the collection schemes of their municipality. All incumbents have to act , according to researcher Marieke Brouwer of Wageningen Food & Biobased Research in a previously published study.