Developing Recyclate Markets

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Once the materials enter the recycling stream, both applications and consumers must be found for recyclate materials. This creates demand and allows recycled material to have economic value in the marketplace. If the associated value of the material is sufficient, then recycling of the material will be both cost effective and sustainable. These materials must compete against virgin materials in terms of both cost and quality. One important trend in this area is that plastic manufacturers themselves are marketing grades containing recycled materials, which takes away much of the onus from designers in terms of finding ways of incorporating recycled materials. It also increases confidence in the quality of recyclate materials. The lack of knowledge on consistency of quality and properties, often a cause for resistance to switch to recyclates, is removed.

Aided with standards for these materials, new potential uses for recyclates can be more easily identified. Designing components for disassembly and recycling, and setting up an infrastructure capable of handling the post consumer materials are issues that must be addressed.

With the exception of food contact and medical applications, there appears to be a very healthy market for recyclates to compete in, that being the virgin market. The problem appears to be more issues of price, price fluctuations and consistency of supply. When specifying a product a designer needs to ensure that the supply of that material is adequate for the lifetime of their product.9.4 Logistics

The success of the entire procedure relies on the infrastructure being in place for the collection of the materials for recycling. Logistically, for a reprocessing plant to be viable, it needs to be close to a constant source of supply. This problem occurs mainly because of the inherent low density of plastics. They need to be baled in order to get a good weight and hence a reasonable value of plastics to cover the costs of transporting loads. Reliable and sustainable sources of waste need to be identified, to enable both sufficient quantities and constant supply to have confidence in specifying recyclate materials. 9.5 Quality

Standardisation programmes such as those championed in the UK by groups such as WRAP and CARE will ensure that the same kind of quality control is attached to recyclate as has become the norm with virgin materials. 9.6 Education

It is also necessary to educate and inform all those involved in plastic waste management as to how they can aid in reaching recycling targets. This would include the general public, who may in a limited manner assist, for example in returning plastic bottles and other recyclable goods to recycling centres, or by sorting their rubbish into kerbside boxes. They can also exert commercial pressure by choosing to buy products made with recycled materials.

When these points have been addressed, the ability to cope with the ever changing demands of the plastic recycling marketplace should be assured.

One final note, it should be remembered that many of the issues addressed here do not apply only to plastics. In the UK, 65 million tonnes of waste go to landfill every year.

  • This means that every hour we throw away enough rubbish to fill the Albert Hall'
  • Vic Cocker, Chairman, The Wrap Business Plan: Creating markets for Recycled Resources, 2001).

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