Updated: Feb 13, 2019
Why having 100% recycled plastic as an objective ?
Plastic waste lasts and is visible
Plastic waste recycling is mismanaged vs other materials
Irresponsible behaviour of some individuals when they throw away packaging
Late investments from the plastic industry for recycling ?
For the reason above, recycling 100% of plastics seems to be an attractive proposal:
"Perception of "too much plastic" = 100% recycling proposal, unfortunately nothing is so simple !"
Is it reasonable in a such short time, 6 years?
It’s a fast move, it looks like saying to a 6-month-old child: "walk next week!” it will likely not happen as they have to go step by step, takes time to crawl and finally get started. It's the same for sustainable development applied to packaging: We must consider all the steps to take to make the right decisions.
The field of packaging is a complex field and we must study many parameters otherwise we will get a result at the opposite to what we wanted.
For ex : Building all the recycling infrastructures for the 6 main plastics will be long (today recycling schemes exist mainly for the 4 first plastic types below):
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE)
High-density polyethylene (HDPE)
Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
The problem will be for the other types of plastic (eg. plastic baby bottle) and multi-layer products (eg. coffee packaging). Wouldn’t be better for this category to incinerate them with energy recovery or develop "biodegradable" plastics ?
The benefit of incineration will be the reduction of fossil energy use. It could be better to allow incineration with energy recovery for all small, light plastic packaging which are not sorted today and focus our effort on the main plastics type recycling infrastructure.
Benefit of "biodegradable" (home compost and marine degradable) will also reduce waste.
the ultimate goal of having 100 % plastic "recovered" and a 100 % recycling goal for the main existing plastics would have been more sustainable
The second issue remains to have second life for these recycled plastics
First of all, clear communication must be done regarding consumer preference to facilitate recycling , eg Transparent bottle non-colored plastics .
Then, does a market exist and Is the market ready ? Several paths already exist for non-food application for the main plastics which can be converted into clothes for ex or for food application for PET and, PE
What are the solutions for the other which are not used in food and beverage sector and which can contain a lot of chemicals dangerous for our health?
Don’t we put the cart before the horses?
*NB: explanation for non-expert: the announce of the French government in August 2018 is about having 100 % plastic recycled, it doesn’t mean that all plastics have to be made of 100% recycled material, but France will have to recycle 100 % of the plastics.