Recycling of plastics does not begin with collection but rather with the design of products. Recycling processes are very often hampered by inseperable polymer composites, unnecessary use of additives or combining of plastics with other materials (paper, metal, fibres) in a way that does not allow for an easy separation.
The essential criterion of product design nowdays is its high performance. The new challenge, however, should be to incorporate the recyclability aspect and to make it a requirement on top of the other performance criteria: product safety, shelf life, marketing and branding, etc. It is improtant to balance those various objectives of a plastic product, without ignoring its recyclability.
According to the Global Plastics Outreach Alliance definition, a product is considered recyclable if it meets the following conditions:
- The product must be made with a plastic that is collected for recycling, has market value and/or is supported by a legislatively mandated program.
- The product must be sorted and aggregated into defined streams for recycling processes.
- The product can be processed and reclaimed/recycled with commercial recycling processes.
- The recycled plastic becomes a raw material that is used in the production of new products.
PRE created RecyClass with the aim of improving the design of packaging so that it is easily recyclable into high-quality recyclates which can then be used in a new plastic product. Far too much plastic is not fit for recycling and is hence destined only for energy recovery - the last but one option in the waste hierarchy pyramid. RecyClass is a free online tool which enables the assessment of virtually any plastic package regarding its recyclability. The tool uses the class system from A to F which resembles the energy efficiency rating. In a few simple steps the recyclability of a product can be verified.
The tool provides advice and recommendations on how to improve design in case the product scores rather poorly in the assessment. In the last steps of the evaluation, the product can be certified by an expert in order to use the RecyClass branding.
By imporving product design, RecyClass will help divert substantial quantities of plastics away from landfills and incineration plants, and ultimately help reach higher recycling targets while saving the natural resources.
Cousult the Design for Recycling Guidelines to learn more about the recyclability of your product.