Black plastic recycling can be tricky, but a new initiative led by RECOUP, the UK plastic recycling charity, working with an industry group, plans to increase recycling of black plastic packaging. RECOUP (RECycling Of Used Plastics Limited) is a not for profit organisation that works with its stakeholders to stimulate and encourage plastic waste recycling.
RECOUP and the industry group are looking at the challenges of black plastic waste recycling, examining the technologies for sorting and the markets for recycled plastic compounds, to gain an idea of how to maximise black plastic waste recycling and put realistic and sustainable long-term plastic recycling goals in place.
The industry group encompasses a variety of businesses throughout the supply chain, including retailers, manufacturers of packaging, plastic waste recycler organisations and trade associations.
Together, RECOUP and the industry group have put together a plan for black plastic waste recycling. This involves assessing and facilitating a number of objectives. These include developing business models for dealing with the black plastic compounds that already exist and require recycling, along with developing emerging technologies for dealing with black plastic waste. It is also planned to use a pigment that is tested and detectable and to examine opportunities for swapping black plastic for another colour.
RECOUP said undertaking these initiatives would facilitate collecting, sorting and getting black plastic to a plastic waste recycler. This would also entail creating a market that would use the plastic regrinds from black plastic waste recycling. The group said it has made a commitment to finding solutions that are sustainable for black plastic waste recycling by the end of 2018.
Activities would include taking previous advances and building on these, looking at the effects of black plastic packaging and enabling sorting facilities to detect it more easily. A deadline would be set for using detectable black pigments and sorting and processing techniques would be developed. There would also be a testing regime for packaging in other colours to ensure that it is more eco-friendly. Assessment of new sorting processes would be introduced, along with research on different types of markets for the end product.
Eventually, the group hopes to put best practice guidelines in place for manufacturers, retailers, brands and local authorities on how to deal most effectively with the challenges faced by the black plastic waste recycler.
A representative from the Plastics Industry Recycling Action Plan and the British Plastic Federation welcomed the industry group move, saying that it was a positive step towards creating an economy that was circular for recycling black plastic. She added that the group’s work would be a valuable contribution to raising the amount of plastic that is recycled.
While tests indicated in 2013 that the technology was available for recycling this type of plastic, the biggest obstacle was the cost. However, with the emergence of the industry group, many parties would now be working together to ensure that this problem could be resolved. A consistent protocol embraced by the entire industry would make the task of recycling black plastic a great deal easier.