Recycling Waste Management

The Recycling Backstage, NL Documentary (FREE)

Dutch Documentary unveils the backstage of the plastic recycling industry. This is a FREE article

Documentary Maker

Teun van de Keuken is a Dutch producer of television and radio programs who established a reputation investigating fair trade and production practices in the food industry; he founded the chocolate company Tony’s Chocolonely.

We will refer to him as TEUN.

Today, Teun makes a documentary about recycling called “De Vuilnisman” (The garbage man)

AVR Waste (Waste Management Plant)

Teun talks to Jesper de Jong

This waste management facility processes the waste for the cities of Rotterdam, Utrecht, Den Haag etc.

They process between 2.5 to 3 kilotons waste every day.

The waste stream processing is continuous; 24 / 24 and 7 / 7.

The waste comes in unsorted.

The filthy contaminated plastic is removed and considered as “rest or residue” and will be incinerated.

50 % of the plastic waste that arrives at the plant cannot be sorted and will be incinerated.

The definition of recycling is important.

Recycling should be when plastic waste is recycled into new products or applications.

In reality, something else happens.

A “recycling” certification is given when the waste management companies delivers sorted plastic waste to recycling companies


Plastic recycling is thus a paper reality: once the plastic waste is packed into a plastic bale, it will be certified as “recycled”.

In other words, the word “recycling” is used to describe the “sorting of waste” and not in the sense of “converted into new products”.

Technically speaking, you can sort the waste, dump it and it will be considered as recycling.

There are too many contaminants in recyclable plastics and recycled plastics is too expensive compared to virgin plastic.

Eventually, if recycled plastic is used it will be downcycling.

Most packaging companies and brand owners will not use recycled content.

Packaging Federation (Afval Fonds Verpakkingen)

Teun talks to Esther Klein Lankhorst. Some materials have a high recycling rate.

  • Glass and paper: 90 %
  • Metal: 95 %
  • Plastic: 57%

Glass and paper have a high recycling rate because they have been recycled for the last 30 – 40 years; while plastics has a low recycling rate because recycling only started 10 years ago.

Recycled plastic will be used in the following applications: packaging, highway location markers and the car industry.

We should improve the sorting technology.

The industry is tryin to reduce the use of multi material packaging.

The recycled pellets (the plastic waste that has been separated, sorted, after-sorted, washed and shredded) are reused into new products.

We need more markets to sale recycled content

Recycling Netwerk Nederland (Environmental NGO)

Teun speaks to Rob Buurman.

Teun shows the latest video from The Alliance to End Plastic Waste” to Rob.

Teun names the following companies as having financed this movie: Shell, BASF and Pepsico.

Both conclude that these companies are trying to place the guilt of plastic waste and litter on the consumers instead of themselves.

Both seem to believe that these companies are a bit cynical. Plastic recycling is not doing well because there are too many types of plastics.

Unsorted plastic waste is hard to sort and recycle.

Different types of plastics and additives are combined making it impossible to recycle. It’s not true that 50 % of plastic are recycled.

The method to measure the recycling rate is fraudulent. it’s based on the weight.

Contaminants such as moisture, dirt, oil, food, residues, etc. are added to the weight of the plastic waste that will be recycled.

EU measuring method will have to be implemented soon.

NL Government asked WUR to make an estimate.

WUR believes that 35 %to 39 % of plastic waste is actually recycled in the NL.

There’s a big difference between what the industry says and reality.

The data is wrong.

Most packaging are developed with marketing criteria (it should be appealing to customer) instead of sustainability criteria.

Oerlemans Packaging (Packaging Company)

Teun visits Oerlemans Packaging plant and talks to Rob Verhagen.

There’s 3 million KG of plastic in the factory.

Recycled plastic cannot be used for food packaging.

Recycled plastic (30%) should be mixed with virgin plastic (70%) because the quality of the recycled plastic is too low.

It will stink if a higher degree of recycled content is added.

Transparent packaging cannot be made from PCR, because PCR is grey.

Plastic cannot be fully circular.

You will always have waste and pollution.

Chemical recycling should help close the loop on plastic.

Plastic Recycling Amsterdam (Recycler)

Teun speaks to Lucy van Keulen

They process the waste of one million people and process 25 million Kg per year.

Both conclude that it’s one big filthy soup when looking at the plastic waste that comes in.

She describes it as the backend of society.

All the plastic that arrives there is legally certified”recycled”.

A lot of it will be incinerated.

Billions are invested in the building of new plastic plants, while this recycling facility can barely keep the boat afloat financially speaking.

The use of recycled content is marginal.

The brand owners have promised to market packaging containing 25 % to 50 % recycled content, while in reality it’s still under the 5%.

Most of the recycled plastic will not be used as packaging; but will mainly end up in the car industry as dashboards.

This is not circular.

Circular means from “packaging to packaging”.

“Packaging-to-packaging” recycling is possible for shampoo bottles for instance, but brand owners don’t want recycled content in reality.

The reasons:

  • brand owners dislike the look and feel of bottles made from recycled content
  • virgin plastic is too cheap. compared to recycled plastics
  • the industry is not ready to make concessions.

More articles related to Teun de Keuken

Teun visits a Dutch Waste management facility in the Netherlands.

Link to the Dutch Documentary De Vuilnisman

Watch the video


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