The effects of degradable plastics on recycling streams

EuPC published the results of independent industrial tests which have been carried out on the effects of degradable plastic carrier bags on the quality of plastics recyclates. These independent tests have been carried out by the Austrian research centre TCKT (the Transfer Centre for Polymer Technology), following commissioning by EuPC. EuPC initiated these tests following concerns regarding the effects of degradable plastics on the quality of plastic recyclates. The tests focused on four different mixtures of degradable plastic bags and one virgin LDPE recycling material and testing was conducted over the course of six months. During these six months of testing, more than 9.45 tonnes of plastic carrier bags were processed and over 3,700 measurements were taken.

Although all the materials could be processed, the results show that even in quantities as low as 2%, degradable plastic films cause significant, detrimental impacts to the quality of plastic recyclates. These impacts are not only detrimental in terms of mechanical properties of the recycled material, but also involve visual impacts on the newly produced film.
Following these test results, EuPC urges legislators and waste management authorities in EU 28 Member States to push for increased separation and collection of degradable plastics. Commenting on the test results, Alexandre Dangis (Managing Director, EuPC) stated: “Over the past years, there has been considerable concern in Europe surrounding the effects of bio-degradable plastics on recycling streams. These test results now prove that separate collection of degradable plastic products is needed in Europe if we want to further develop recycling streams and work towards a circular economy”.

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