TRANSFORM-CE in action: Sharing international plastic waste for testing

As part of the TRANSFORM-CE project, the Green Plastic Factory in Almere (the Netherlands) received a shipment of 4.5 tonnes of low-quality plastic waste from Materia Nova in Belgium. In the near future, shipments will also be sent from TRANSFORM-CE partners in Germany and the United Kingdom. The plastic waste will be sorted out to assess the types of plastic it contains, how much is waste, and what and how much can be recycled. The Green Plastic Factory is working with the waste recycling company Cirwinn, also in Almere, to sort out the waste. Cirwinn is the perfect company in this endeavour as it separates the plastics that are suitable to be turned into a secondary raw material for producing new plastic products. Importing plastic waste from abroad is an exception for both the Green Plastic Factory and Cirwinn, neither of which normally import or export waste.

The unusual step of exporting waste to the Green Plastic Factory in the Netherlands is part of the TRANSFORM-CE partnership in which seven North West European countries are involved in seeking solutions for the problem of waste and stimulating the circular economy. To this end, the Green Plastic Factory had agreed to receive five tonnes of plastic waste from Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom which it would sort out and process.

The plastic waste that arrived from Belgium on 14 December comes from consumer packaging rather than industrial packaging. While it has not yet been sorted, at first glance it seems to contain quite a lot of aluminium lined packaging, such as crisp bags, that cannot be processed. Hopefully there will be reusable plastics among the waste. One task that awaits the Green Plastic Factory is to think about potential useful applications for the reusable waste.

At the international level, the waste from the three countries – or four countries if the Netherlands is included – will be analysed to see if there are differences between the waste produced across countries and the degree of difficulty involved in sorting and processing it. An assessment will also be made of how much can be turned into recyclates. This will inform the potential business case. At present, at least half the plastic waste collected for recycling is exported outside the EU for processing and is thus lost to the European plastics economy.

More importantly, analysing the type and potential use of the waste of these countries will help find a total solution for the plastic waste problem in North West Europe.

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