PLA Recycling

Recycling Guidelines for Bioplastics

The recycling industry issued design guidelines for recycling-friendly packaging. Here are all the guidelines relating to bioplastics.

The recycling industry has issued guidelines to tell us how bioplastic fits into a recycling-friendly packaging design.

Recycling Industry

These “Design for Recycling” guidelines are developed by:

  • The European PET Bottle Platform (EPBP) for PET bottles;
  • Petcore Europe for PET Trays Thermoforms; and
  • RecyClass for all other products.

Packaging Types and Components

PET, PE and PP are used for the following types of packaging:

  • Bottles
  • Containers
  • Films
  • Trays

Packaging can contain following components

  • Barier
  • Additives
  • Closure systems
  • Liners, Seals and Valves
  • Labels
  • Sleeves
  • Tamper Evidence Wrap
  • Adhesives for labels
  • Inks
  • Direct Printing
  • Other Components (base cups, handles, etc).

Compatibility Levels

Packaging and components are divided in three groups of compatibility.

  • Yes – Full Compatibility (Green)

Materials that passed the testing protocols with no negative impact OR materials that have not been tested (yet), but are known to be acceptable in recycling.

  • Conditional – Limited (Yellow)

Materials that passed the testing protocols if certain conditions are met OR materials that have not been tested (yet), but pose a low risk of interfering with recycling.

  • No – Low Compatibility (Red)

Materials that failed the testing protocols OR materials that have not been tested (yet), but pose a high risk of interfering with recycling.

PET Packaging Guidelines

Transparent Clear and light blue PET bottles

Can bioplastic packaging or components be recycled with Transparent Clear and light blue PET bottles?

  • PLA Bottles –> no or low compatibility (Red)
  • Bio-/oxo-/photodegradable Additives –> no or low compatibility (Red)
  • PLA Labels with density >1 g/cm³  –> no or low compatibility (Red)

PET Coloured bottles 

Can bioplastic packaging or components be recycled with Coloured PET bottles?

  • PLA Bottles –> no or low compatibility (Red)
  • Bio-/oxo-/photodegradable additives –> no or low compatibility (Red)
  • PLA Labels with density >1 g/cm³ –> no or low compatibility (Red)

PET trays

Can bioplastic packaging or components be recycled with PET trays?

  • PET based multilayer material with PLA –> no or low compatibility (Red)
  • Bio/Oxo/Photodegradable additives –> no or low compatibility (Red)

PE Packaging Guidelines

HDPE Natural Containers

Can bioplastic packaging or components be recycled with HDPE Natural Containers?

  • Multilayer HDPE container with PLA –> No or low compatibility (Red)
  • PLA closure systems –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)
  • PLA Liners, Seals and Valves –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)
  • PLA Labels  –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)
  • PLA Sleeves –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)
  • PLA Other components –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)

HDPE Coloured containers

Can bioplastic packaging or components be recycled with HDPE Coloured Containers?

  • Multilayer HDPE container with PLA  –> No or low compatibility (Red)
  • PLA closure systems with a density >1g/cm3 –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)
  • PLA Liners, Seals and Valves with a density >1g/cm3 –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)
  • PLA Labels with a density >1g/cm3   –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)
  • PLA Sleeves with a density >1g/cm3 ) –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)
  • PLA Other components with a density >1g/cm3 –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)

PE Natural Flexible films

Can bioplastic packaging or components be recycled with PE Natural Flexible films?

  • Bio-/oxo-/photodegradable additives with concentration > 0,97 g/cm3 –> No or low compatibility (Red)
  • PLA Liners, Seals and Valves –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)
  • PLA Other components –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)

PE Coloured Flexible Films

Can bioplastic packaging or components be recycled with PE Coloured Flexible films?

  • PLA closure systems –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)
  • PLA Liners, Seals and Valves –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)
  • PLA Other components –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)
  • Bio-/oxo-/photodegradable additives with concentration > 0,97 g/cm3 –> No or low compatibility (Red)

PP Packaging Guidelines

Natural PP containers

Can bioplastic packaging or components be recycled with Natural PP containers?

  • Multilayers PP container with PLA –> No or low compatibility (Red)
  • PLA closure systems with density >1 g/cm³ –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)
  • PLA Liners, Seals and Valves with density >1 g/cm³ –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)
  • PLA Labels with density >1 g/cm³ –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)
  • PLA Sleeves with density >1 g/cm³–> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)

Coloured PP containers

Can bioplastic packaging or components be recycled with coloured PP containers?

  • Multilayers PP container with PLA –> No or low compatibility (Red)
  • PLA closure systems with density >1 g/cm³ –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)
  • PLA Liners, Seals and Valves with density >1 g/cm³ –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)
  • PLA Labels with density >1 g/cm³ –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)
  • PLA Sleeves with density >1 g/cm³–> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)

Natural PP Flexible Films

Can bioplastic packaging or components be recycled with natural PP flexible films?

  • PLA closure systems –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)
  • PLA Liners, Seals and Valves  –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)
  • Bio-/oxo-/photodegradable additives with concentration > 0,97 g/cm3 –> No or low compatibility (Red)

Coloured PP Flexible Films

Can bioplastic packaging or components be recycled with coloured PP flexible films?

  • PLA closure systems –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)
  • PLA Liners, Seals and Valves  –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)
  • PLA Other attachments –> Conditional – Limited (Yellow)
  • Bio-/oxo-/photodegradable additives with concentration > 0,97 g/cm3 –> No or low compatibility (Red)

PE and PP Pots, Tubes and Trays

  • No guidelines regarding PLA, OXO or Bio-Additives

Remarks

The recycling of PET, PP and PE packaging covers the biggest part of the plastic packaging recycling industry. These guidelines are thus more than representative.

These guidelines are based on good will. The recycling symbols are usually moulded on the bottles / containers / trays. The other packaging components (barrier, additives, ink, liners, adhesives, etc.) come without recycling symbols.

These guidelines are for mechanical recycling. Chemical recycling doesn’t exist at industrial scale at this point-in-time so there’s no need for such guidelines yet.

No bioplastics fall under the full compatibility (green) status. The recycling industry doesn’t seem to like PLA. However, one may say that the other bioplastics are not even considered; PEF (layers) for instance. Basically, the use of PEF coating with PE, PET and PP recyclable packaging is not considered as part of a circular or sustainable packaging design according to these guidelines.

What about BIO-PP, BIO-PET, BIO-PE? They’re not even mentioned. Can you use them or not? It’s not clear.

Why are these Guidelines Excluding Bioplastics?

Two reasons:

(1) Technical reasons: there’s a genuine concern that bioplastics may contaminate the recycling process. However, there may be a bit more than technical reasons.

(2) Politics. What makes a F1 champion? The car or the driver? Apparently it’s 80 % the car and 20 % the driver. Maybe it’s the same here. The bioplastic sector doesn’t have a good driver. The bioplastics sector hasn’t been successful in building bridges with the recycling industry and with other stakeholders including bioplasticsnews.com. In fact, the bioplastic leadership has been more divisive and blaming others for their lack of leadership. There’s an urgent need for a new “bioplastics” leadership. We don’t need someone with a technical background; we need someone with business acumen. We need a business man. Someone who can speak the language of the different stakeholders. Someone who will unite the pack. Not the old leaders with the old visions and the old methods. We need fresh leadership; young people with a new approach; no puppets of the old guard.

The new worlds are hardly ever built by the architects of the old worlds.

Refs

Design for Recycling Guidelines

Videos by Bioplastics News Chief Editor

Advantages and Disadvantages of PLA

Plastic Recycling

Chemical Recycling

Biobased Plastic

Compostable Plastic

Circular Plastic

 

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