International study of plastic packaging waste to deliver a circular economy reaches Germany

Work to research the type and amount of flexible packaging and rigid plastic packaging in the post-consumer waste stream across Europe reaches Germany thanks to collaboration with Resource Futures, cyclos GmbH, KAVG and PreZero

CEFLEX and partners PCEP, Petcore Europe, Styrenics Circular Solutions and Stina (previously MORE Recycling) have teamed up to understand the reality of today’s collected household packaging waste – a vital step forward towards a circular economy for packaging materials

Hailed as Europe’s first in-depth analysis of its kind, study data aims to reveal the amounts and types of post-consumer flexible and rigid plastic packaging, in the two main waste streams in which it is collected.

Fieldwork at two SUEZ sites in the UK took place in December 2020, revealing currently there is a significant amount of ready-to-recycle flexible packaging appearing in residual waste samples, where it is unlikely to be successfully returned to the economy and used again.

Bringing the same analysis to further target countries France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland and Spain has faced significant challenges due to the COVID pandemic.

However, the team leading the study from environmental consultancy Resource Futures, partners and CEFLEX stakeholders have been determined to navigate the numerous hurdles to gain a full picture of the packaging life cycle.

Resourceful partnerships in Germany and beyond

Collaboration has been key to mobilising the research in a second country, Germany. Resource Futures together with waste and environmental management experts cyclos GmbH have been active at a site of CEFLEX stakeholder PreZero and at waste management company KAVG’s Pohlsche Heide site during October and November 2021.

Here, the compositional analysis study continues to research the type and amount of flexible packaging and rigid plastics packaging in the post-consumer waste stream.

It involves taking representative samples and manually sorting the waste into categories to reflect the type of material and also the type of product. The team are sampling from both the recyclables stream and the residual waste stream to obtain a full picture of the packaging life cycle.

Sampling, sorting and analysing the light packaging fraction recyclables stream at PreZero's Porta Westfalica waste sorting facility in Germany
Sampling, sorting and analysing the light packaging fraction recyclables stream at PreZero’s Porta Westfalica waste sorting facility in Germany

PCEP is supporting Resource Futures, CEFLEX and partners in working to replicate the approach in further countries. Identifying suitable facilities for residual and recycling material streams in each country and in-country delivery partners for the Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy and Poland to manage the fieldwork.

The methodology, sorting and categorising of materials is consistent in each case, with onsite quality and consistency supervision from the research project lead.

Thank you to all the team and partners for continuing to establish this vital information about how material flows through the system today. Armed with this analysis we will be able to better target exactly what collection, sorting and recycling solutions are required to deliver a circular economy for flexible packaging and other packaging materials.

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