SR article

The sociotechnical system of plastic


 

To overview the waste management stream in Netherland, we devide recycle loop into 3 parts that contains fabrication, use and collection. In each part, we find data and facts that helped us understanding the current system.

Fabrication

Plastic fabrication is located just after the polymerization process where plastic as a row material is produced. The basic raw materials for plastic are petroleum and/or natural gas. In addition to these resources, specific additives are added to provide the material with specific properties so that the following manufacturing processes can take place. There are mainly five types of manufacturing processes: extrusion, injection molding, blow molding, casting and calendaring.

Recycled plastic in only involved throughout these processes for lower-grade applications. In the case of PET, the recycled plastic is used in the fabrication process for getting cheap carpets and fleeces as final product. Furthermore, for PE and PP the processes are oriented to produce block board and park benches.


Companies

More than 320 companies whose activity is related to recycling plastic are serving in the Netherlands of which more than 140 are located in the Netherlands. As this number of fabrication companies in the Netherlands is quite wide and our interest is mainly focus on in the area of The Hague, the following chart depicts the fabrication plastic companies which have more influence in this city due to its geographic location and size.

Company

Location

Activity

Aarts plastic

Vijzelweg 8

5145 NK Waalwijk

Injection modelling, assembling and painting different component through three specializations: cosmetics, pharmaceutic products and food packaging.

Van der Hoeven Plastics B. V

Dorpskade 24

2291 HR Wateringen

Wholesaler of plastic pipes and fittings

Rexnord FlatTop Europe b.v.

Einsteinstraat 1

2691 GV 's-Gravenzande

Design of conveyor chains and associated conveying components

Polyplastic

Vlaardingweg 98 – 3044 CK Rotterdam

Acrylic glazing solutions for: leisure vehicles, cooling packages, lighting and safety, alternative energy and marine automotive.

Global flexibles

Schaardijk 19-F

Krimpen aan den IJssel

Developing a wide range of films for covering different types of food

 

Kozijn Midden-Holland

Kattendijk 178b

Gouderak

Consulting service, sales, plastic production and an adequate installation of plastic frames, plastic windows and doors

Holland Bioplastics

Diemerparklaan 25 Amsterdam

Sharing as much knowledge as possible about bioplastics and connecting relevant parties involved directly or indirectly in the production, manufacture, research and / or marketing of bioplastics

E-mails have been sent to these companies in order to arrange interviews and get more information about the processes involving plastic behind their activities


Costs

The economic success or failure of plastics recycling relies on two variables: the cost of the raw materials used to make virgin plastic, petroleum and natural gas, and the cost of recycling versus the cost of disposal, which fluctuates based on a city’s proximity to recycling centres and the price to dump in local landfills. Currently, this factor is the main barrier plastic fabrication companies have to overcome. Developing methods for increasing the profitability of using recycled plastic not only will be translated into a less use of the virgin material and the contamination associated to it, but decreasing the total embodied energy consumed.

Commodity plastics

Embodied energy, virgin material (MJ/kg)

Price,

virgin material

($/kg)

Embodied energy, recycled material (MJ/kg)

Price,

recycled material

($/kg)

HPDE

77 - 85

1.9 -2.0

≈ 35 - 45

0.84 - 0.97

PP

75 - 83

   1.8 - 1.85

≈ 35 - 45

0.99 - 1.1

PET

79 - 88

 2.0 - 2.1

≈ 60 - 64

1.1 - 1.2

PS

  96 - 105

1.5 -1.6

≈ 40 - 50

0.75 - 0.86

PVC

63 - 70

1.4 -1.5

≈ 35 - 40

0.77 - 0.99

This table summarize the information concerning price and embodied energy lower price of the five main different types of plastics for using recycled and virgin material. The amount of recycled material’s embodied energy is lower for every type of plastic as well as its costs. In this case low prices reflects the lower quality of the recycled material which limits its use.

The problem arises when producing plastic is much less expensive than recycling it. This is because of the energy, water and time behind the cleaning and conditioning processes before the material can be use again. In fact, recycling is not just a matter of recovering recyclable material; it’s a total economic system. Therefore, our initiatives have to be aligned to this purpose, making recycle plastic a competitive and profitable resource for plastic fabrication companies.

 

Use of new/recycled plastic in plastic fabrication companies

Due to the main barrier explained before related to price and quality of the recycled plastic, fabrication companies do not include as much material as compared to the virgin one. This information is depicted in the following graphic.

Use

Plastics' versatility allows them to be used in everything from car parts to doll parts, from soft drink bottles to the refrigerators they are stored in. From the cars, you drive to work in to the television you watch at home, plastics help make your life easier and better.

Modern packaging—such as heat-sealed plastic pouches and wraps—helps keep food fresh and free of contamination. That means the resources that went into producing that food aren't wasted. Plastics can also help you bring home more product with less packaging.

Plastics engineers are always working to do even more with less material. Since 1977, the 2-liter plastic soft drink bottle has gone from weighing 68 grams to just 47 grams today, representing a 31 percent reduction per bottle. That saved more than 180 million pounds of packaging in 2006 for just 2-liter soft drink bottles.  The 1-gallon plastic milk jug has undergone a similar reduction, weighing 30 percent less than what it did 20 years ago. Plastics also help to conserve energy in your home. Vinyl siding and windows help cut energy consumption and lower heating and cooling bills.

Many plastic bottles, cans and other packaging materials end up in residual waste or litter. In order to tackle this, the Cabinet made arrangements, in 2013, with municipalities and packaging suppliers. As we speak, over 80% of the municipalities enable their residents to separate liquid cartons from residual waste. Recycling of plastic packaging, such as plastic bottles, almost doubled in six years time. As a result of the introduction of the ban on free plastic bags in early 2016 80% of the consumers now say they always bring their own bag.

Collection

Waste in Netherlands

 

2006

2008

2010

2012

2014

Total waste

93,008,395

97,272,468

113,558,376

119,834,593

133,711,665

Plastic waste

309,330

342,134

378,837

511,128

357,735

Percentage of plastic

0.33%

0.35%

0.33%

0.43%

0.27%

(Data from Eurostat)

In the total waste, the percentage of plastic is 0.27% in 2014. It is not a big part, but plastic is really harmful for the environment. Comparing to other material, it is more important to recycle plastic as much as possible.

Plastic waste management in Netherlands

 

2006

2008

2010

2012

2014

Plastic waste

309,330

342,134

378,837

511,128

357,735

Landfill

 

 

1,282

7,101

14,945

Incineration

 

 

8,969

2,994

3,443

Energy recovery

 

 

86,610

86,900

18,209

Recycling

 

 

281,976

414,133

321,138

Rate of recycling

 

 

74%

81%

90%

(Data from Eurostat)

The recycling rate of plastic is 90% in Netherlands in 2014. Comparing to the number of 2010 and 2012, it is really good to see that the rate goes higher and higher every year.

 

Conclusion

We find that the current plastic recycling loop has already developed into pretty good condition. To bring the situation up to next level, we need to work really detailed. Collecting more used plastic, making them well divided and cleaned, things like that is what we really need to focused on.

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