Plastics Recycling Update

Event explores technical side of recycling

John Standish at the Plastics Recycling Conference.

APR’s John Standish on stage at the APR Plastics Recycling Showcase and Technical Forum.

The global nature of the business, equipment advances and packaging innovations were all covered in this year’s Association of Plastic Recyclers Plastics Recycling Showcase and Technical Forum.

The fourth-annual event was held on March 11, in conjunction with the Plastics Recycling Conference and Trade Show. The following is a rundown of event presentations:

2019 showcase

APR issued a press release with more information on the showcase.

APR Technical Forum

The global nature of plastics recycling was the theme of this year’s forum. Carlos de Los Llanos, the science director at Citeo (Paris), described ways plastics recycling is growing in Europe through the use of extended producer responsibility (EPR) for household packaging. EPR places the financial and operational burden of packaging recovery on the producers of such products. He noted this strategy, while only used in North America by a few Canadian provinces, is an extension of the recovery methods used elsewhere.

Overall, “we see more similarities than differences between Europe and North America in packaging recycling,” he said.

Citeo, which provides the recycling services required for brand owners in France, has annual revenue of 617 million euros (about $705 million). The firm will be expanding its plastics recovery options, given the European requirement to double the plastic recycling level in the next decade. This includes new factors.

“Multi-layer plastic packaging is a big issue in Europe,” he said. And, as a result, he sees more plastic packaging going to chemical recycling. He also predicts more effort in the area of design for recycling and increased use of artificial intelligence technology.

Martin Baumann, vice president of Erema North America, talked about how America is learning from the preceding recycling efforts in Europe. Erema’s history is an example, as it has placed 2,200 machines in Europe, versus 700 units in the U.S.

Baumann sees three current issues needing focus: how reclaimers are being forced to process a dirtier plastic stream, the need to reduce the labor-hours per ton in a recycling plant because of employee shortages, and the economic efficiency of materials processing.

Mario Krezik, product manager at Krones, talked about the firm’s growing work in Europe and North America in developing downstream plastic container recycling systems. This includes new washing technology using wet grinders, sink-float tanks, three washers (pre-wash, caustic and friction), mechanical dryers and other processing methods. The system includes an elaborate water reuse element. At the end of a full system, a reclaimer can use the flake to make preforms, thus avoiding the cost of making pellets. About a dozen such plants operate around the world.

Photo credit: Brian Adams Photo/Plastics Recycling Conference

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