Sustainability concerns of plastics and paper packaging spurs policy makers to close the gap from recycling to reuse of post-consumer packaging
Closing the Gap in Recycling Plastic and Paper Packaging Waste Rate
Worldwide, countries are leaning on reducing the carbon footprints from plastics industry across the chain—from production to consumption to reuse—and, recycling has gained groundswell of industry attention. Economies increasingly are promoting best practices and methods including technologies in sorting and recycling to boost the end-of-life recycling rate of post-consumer plastic packaging. Statistics about the escalating environmental burden of indiscriminate disposal of used plastics from consumers present an enormous challenge to policymakers. The drive for new technologies and regulations in the post-consumer recycled plastic packaging (PRPP) market stems from these concerns.
A bewildering percentage of post-consumer plastic waste comes from the packaging industry—with some estimates putting it at as high as 60% in the EU alone. Glaringly, a small fraction of that is being recycled, with the figures for recycling plastic packaging waste (PPW) still abysmally low in the most developed countries. Another concern on the top pf agenda of earth-friendly companies is the use of recycled paper fibres for paper packaging. A number of paper carriers for consumer markets are being made with recycled fibers, to support sustainable forestry. Having said that, there is still a lot to accomplish in completing the recycling chain for an ideal circular economy.
The chasm in the recycling loop is widening in both paper and plastics packaging. The considerations have attracted players of all hues to improve recovery rates across the value chain and close the gap. Ranging from collectors to sorters to recyclers, they see incredible possibilities in the post-consumer recycled plastics. For one, the policy stimulus toward reducing the reliance on fossil fuel is a key underpinning. Besides the regulatory push, the market is also evolving with the trend of packaging companies adopting environmentally friendly packaging solutions. These solutions tend to increase the share of recycled content.
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Numerous Micro environmental Factors at Play
Over the years, the dynamics of technology developments in the post-consumer recycled plastic packaging market has been shaped by numerous microenvironmental factors typical to the recycling industry. The recovery and purity rates depend on the demand for the polymer, the purity of sorted plastics, the economic barriers for substitution of recycled from unrecycled polymer, and greatly on the technologies in place. Over the years, new equipment and implementation of extended producer responsibility (EPR) systems have opened new growth avenues for the concerned players in the value chain. The secondary use of recyclates is also a key determinant while deciding on an effective policy for improving PPW rates.
The demand for such solutions is picking up for meeting the needs of food and pharmaceutical packaging. A case in point is the growing market proposition for 100% post-consumer resin (PCR). Another promising segment is likely to be polypropylene packaging recycling. The industry investment for solutions in the latter segment hinges on the prevalence of the material in food as well as non-food household and personal care products.
Flurry of Strategic Developments in Developed World Enrich Landscape, Barriers Remain
In recent years, collaborations among industry players have kicked in to support the market viability of such solutions. Companies are aiming at new strategy frameworks in order to ramp up investments. A case in point is Nextek Ltd. adopting some cutting-edge technologies aimed at improving the PPW of plastics recycling stream from PP. Specifically, they are forming partnerships that will allow them to commercially use food-grade PP using marker technologies.
Economies in the Europe and North America are keen on promoting plastics recycling framework that will help them advance the concept of circular economy, wherein efforts are being intensified to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of plastics packaging that come from food industry.
Another area that will see growth is boosting the deployment of new technologies in material recovery facilities. Studies pertaining to best practices in even developed nations are scare. Further, resource-scarce nations suffer from the ignominy of low awareness about the ecological footprint of plastics packaging. In coming years, these barriers will be taken in the strides of the post-consumer recycled plastic packaging (PRPP)market.
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