Within a circular economy, waste should be reused as much as possible. Within the Netherlands we have a well developed waste collection system with separate collection of glass, paper & board, PMD (plastics, metals, drinking cartons) and organic waste. Targets with respect to PMD are improving quality and value and with respect to organic waste to increase collection volumes. A product in between PMD and organic waste is bioplastics. Compostable bioplastic used for packaging food could help organic waste collections. Also, they could help to reduce the amount of organic waste that is currently found in PMD. Also, compostable bioplastics could help to reach the target that in 2030 all plastic packaging should be recyclable replacing specific laminates. Still, there are various concerns that are frequently raised;
- Are bioplastics compatible with current organic waste processing systems, and do they degrade fast enough?
- Wat is the effect of bioplastics if they end up in PMD?
Will consumers get confused and will organic waste get more poluted with plastics other than biodegradable bioplastics?
At present the market share of bioplastics is about 1% and the effects on recycling systems are difficult to measure. WFBR has analysed over 250 bigbags with post-consumer plaatic waste and hardly ever found bioplastics articles. Studies have shown that distribution of biodegradable waste bags leads to increased organic waste collection. The effect of biodegradable packaging for organic products on organic waste collection is unknown. Also it is unkown if biodegradable packaging will lead to confusion and pollution of organic waste. Even the origin of plastic packaging that is currently found in organic waste is unknown.
WFBR has created a model of the Dutch post-consumer plastic packaging recycling network. Expanding this model to bioplastics, plastics in organic waste and plastics residual waste will complete the model and is very valuable for optimisation of current waste collection and recycling systems.