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Improvement of the plastic packaging waste chain from a circular economy approach

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PlastiCircle (Improvement of the plastic packaging waste chain from a circular economy approach)

Reporting period: 2017-06-01 to 2018-11-30

Over the past 50 years, the role and importance of plastics in our economy has consistently grown. Global production of plastics has increased twentyfold since the 1960s, reaching 322 million tonnes in 2015. It is expected to double again over the next 20 years. Low recycling rates of plastic mainly come from issues with packaging waste. This is the main plastic waste fraction, representing 63% of the total plastic waste generated in Europe (16.25 Mt). Additionally, there are specific limitations on recovery because packaging waste is mainly a domestic residue and consequently the quality of the material collected depends on the system of segregation available and the behaviour
and environmental awareness of citizens. Only 31.1% of plastic packaging waste is recycled in Europe.

The improvement of domestic packaging waste collection and treatment is a key factor for guaranteeing the circular economy of plastics, and should be even higher in Eastern and Southern Europe where packaging recycling rates are lower. In Central and Northern Europe the challenge is to develop value-added applications for the packaging fractions currently not properly valorized (i.e. PET, PE, PP, PS, and plastic mixes).

The main objective of PlastiCircle is to improve the Circular Economy of Plastics (Closure of the European Plastic Loop). With this in mind, a holistic treatment process will be developed for the reintroduction of plastic packaging to the plastic value chain. The PlastiCircle approach is based on innovation in the four stages associated with plastic packaging treatment: collection, transport, sorting and recycling. PlastiCircle aims to develop and implement a holistic process to increase packaging waste recycling rates in Europe. To reach this target, PlastiCircle focuses on innovation in the different stages associated with the treatment of plastic packaging waste (collection, sorting, transport and recycling).
The project is divided in four main areas: collection, transport, sorting and recycling. The work performed and the objectives achieved are described below:

COLLECTION: The consortium has been working during the whole period to develop, integrate and validate an innovative packaging collection system which increases the amount of plastic packaging waste collected, improving quantity and quality of plastic packaging waste collected.
A system which is able to identify the quantity and quality of packaging generated by each family/citizen, with a view to implementing compensation policies to encourage optimal collection. The compensation procedure described in D3.5 explains the methodology to achieve this reward system.
Designing smart containers equipped with different technologies: a user identification system, identifiable labels for deposited garbage bags, data transmission by LoRa/SigFox, and anti-fraud measures. All this information will be sent to the IoT platform.

TRANSPORT: In framework of WP3 has been developed a route optimization transport system based in the filling measurement of the containers to minimize the transport cost. Moreover, an analysis of the efficient driving techniques has been done to reduce the fuel consumption. Both studies (route optimization and efficient driving) will be implement during the pilot activity. The WP2 has been developed the smart container including the filling measure level, the WP3 has been developed the route optimization and the truck traceability system. Both WPs are closely working in the development of the communication system between the containers, the IoT platform and the trucks to achieve optimizing collection routes based on the container filling measurement in real time. Also, a driving behaviour analysis was made in the WP3. In this analysis the eco-driving and the factor affecting fuel consumption were studied.

SORTING: A plastic separation applicable technologies study has been carried out. It has been seen that the best alternative is infrared spectroscopy. This technique can be applied in several ways and two of them can adapt quite well to the studied application. One of them is based on using hyperspectral imaging equipment and performing a pushbroom scan type. The second technique consists of a whiskbroom scan, although in this case the implementation is more complicated and requires the development of a custom system. A study has been made about the detection of multilayer materials. With this objective, two different spectral work bands have been used within the near infrared part of the spectra, 900-1700nm and 1200-2200nm.

RECYCLING: In WP5 the work has been focused on testing several feedstocks and identifying key issues that need to be overcome. The work is focusing on two main technical issues:
- How to convert crystalline PP to amorphous PP for use in roofing membranes
- The injection moulding of PET for automotive parts
Applications can account for the majority of recycled plastics, however PET from thermoforms is an issue. The quality is not sufficient for the applications investigated and could be a barrier in reaching 85% recycling for all PET.
The improvement of all stages of the end-of-life cycle of packaging will entail an increase in quality and quantity of the material collected. The integration of all these measures of improvement in a same project will show the importance of taking into account each step to improve the system from a holistic point of view.

PlastiCircle is focussed on the development of a holistic process on collection/transport/sorting/recycling which leads to the closure of the plastic loop (circular economy). It represents, therefore, a clear market opportunity for the plastic sector since it will allow the recovery of plastic waste fractions that are currently landfilled (i.e. 5.04 Mt) and incinerated (i.e. 5.69 Mt). The objective is to increase collection from 81.7% to 87% and to increase plastic recovery by 9.8% on average (6% PET, 7% rigid PE, 7% PE film, 8% rigid PP, 24% PP film, 7% plastic mixes). Therefore, the implementation of the PlastiCircle approach in Europe has the potential to increase collected plastic by 861,250 tonnes (to 14.14 Mt) and recovery by 1.59Mt. C

Landfilling and incineration of plastics generates substances which can be progressively increasing in the tissues of these organisms finally affecting human health. Moreover, these processes have the potential to affect the environment (i.e. pollution of soil, air, water, acid rain, global warming, etc.). PlastiCircle will allow a major valorization of plastic waste in recycling and converting processes. This will lead to the reduction of these impacts, preserving human health and offering to citizens a better environment.

The introduction of the PlastiCircle approach within the European Union could lead to the creation of 500-1400 new companies and of 11,900-33,000 new jobs. Moreover, these jobs will be mainly focussed on innovative sectors focussed on environment, equipment and technology (waste management technologies, sorting technologies, internet communication, automotive industry, consumer goods, etc.). Therefore, most of the jobs created will be qualified, offering better working conditions and salaries to workers. PlastiCircle will allow a better service of packaging collection in terms of costs (i.e. reduction of taxes on waste) and efficiency (i.e. collection only when container is 80% full, avoiding overloaded containers).