Collect organic waste and protect the environment

Collect organic waste and protect the environment

Many people find collecting vegetable waste and leftovers rather disgusting – especially in midsummer, when the organic waste in the kitchen can also attract small flies. But because we know what valuable things can be made from vegetable waste, coffee grounds, banana or orange peel, it’s routine for us.

Compost is organic material that helps plants grow when added to the soil. Food scraps and yard waste make up about 30 percent of our waste and could be composted instead. Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, which is a very strong greenhouse gas. By the way, an organic waste bin and your own garden compost do not contradict each other: A lot of things that are not allowed on your own compost can go into the organic waste bin, for example bone or meat leftovers. In addition, we usually produce more organic waste than we can use for our own garden anyway.

Organic waste is very rich in energy and nutrients. Properly disposed of in the organic waste bin, it either ends up in a “fermentation plant”, where climate-neutral biogas is obtained from it, or in a “composting plant“. Valuable fertilizer for agriculture and peat-free soil for the garden are produced here from organic waste. If we separate our waste properly, we support the energy transition and more sustainable agriculture!

How to collect organic waste in the most environmentally friendly way

The most environmentally friendly way to separate your organic waste is to take it straight from the kitchen bowl to the organic waste bin. You can put a little paper in the bowl to absorb the moisture. This can be thrown into the compost bin. However, please do not use brightly printed paper so that no residues of the printing inks end up in the compost. Numerous manufacturers offer organic collection containers for the kitchen, some with special filter lids to reduce unpleasant odors. Another option are special paper bags. These are specially coated so that they remain tear-resistant when the organic waste is wet. When buying, you should make sure that the bags are made of recycled paper with the Blue Angel.

Incidentally, most waste disposal companies advise against special bags made of biodegradable plastic. The plastic does not decompose quickly enough in their composting plants and thus ends up in the environment as plastic scraps or microplastics. Furthermore, the degradable plastic bags in the plants can only be distinguished from the conventional plastic bags with difficulty, so that they are often sorted out before composting to be on the safe side – often including the valuable content!

Join the “organic waste bin promise”!

The Federal Ministry for the Environment and other partners called last year for the big “organic waste bin promise”. You can make a promise to throw all your organic waste in the organic waste bin. To ensure that less plastic ends up in the organic waste bin we support eco-friendly initiatives that encourage people to eat more biologically produced foods, buy foods in eco-friendly and naturally degradable packaging and to separate and recycle all plastic waste from our households. We are constantly active to find new technologies for plastic recycling and production process that limit waste, especially non-recyclable waste.

How is plastic recycled and why do we recycle at all

How is plastic recycled and why do we recycle at all

In everyone’s mind is the image of the suffering of a bird with a plastic bag inside its throat. Or the images of the garbage island, in the North Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii, where, according to a study in the journal Nature, the waste covers 1.6 million km2 (almost three times the size of France) and contains almost 80,000 tons of plastic. Every minute about a million plastic bottles are bought on our earth, and every year about 500,000 million bags are used. Annually, eight million tons of plastic ends up in the oceans.

Since 1950, more than 8 billion tons of plastic of all kinds have been produced in the world and a lot of that has ended up in the environment. How can we stop these figures of rising entirely out of proportions? Plastic recycling is essential. This awareness of the necessity of recycling has to be fixed in into the minds of governments, companies and society in general.

Plastic, present in numerous products, is made up of polymers of resins and substances that come from petroleum that are molded using pressure and heat. Although they can be natural if they come from vegetable raw materials, the most widespread are the synthetic ones. Made from compounds derived from petroleum, natural gas or coal, these plastics come in a big variety of types with different characteristics. Nevertheless, there are four groups that could be identified as the main plastics:

Polyethylene (PE) – Present in plastic bags, plastic sheets and films, containers, microspheres of cosmetics and abrasive products.
Polyester (PET) – They include bottles, containers or clothing.
Polypropylene (PP) – This is mainly part of household appliances or vehicle parts.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) – Present in pipes, valves or windows.

Plastic recycling process

As with materials such as glass or paper and cardboard, several phases are followed to recycle plastic.

  • Plastic waste is separated and disposed of in the corresponding container. This is, without a doubt, the first step to be able to continue the fight against plastic waste and to promote recycling. For this, the work of citizens and companies is essential. But what can be thrown into the recycling container? Plastic containers (such as bottles), metal containers (such as cans) and tetrabriks (such as milk or juice packages). It is also possible to deposit the cork trays.
  • Collection and transfer to the sorting plant. All the plastic waste collected in this container is transferred to a plant, where the materials are selected and classified by type and colors.
  • Shredding and washing. Once the materials are sorted out, the waste is crushed and washed to remove impurities. Once this step has been carried out, they are dried and centrifuged in order to eliminate any remaining contaminations and are homogenized with a mechanical process to achieve a uniform color and texture.
  • Regeneration of a new bottle or product. After renewed purification of the material, the plastic is ready to give it a new shape and color according to the intended product, and as a final step passing through the relevant quality controls.

There are multiple uses that can be given to recycled plastic and the products that can be created from it. It is possible to see this material in the form of new packaging, slippers, clothing (read our recent article on how PET bottles can be turned into new clothing), accessories and there are even those who have used it to create a boat and those who give it a second life in the form of a musical instrument.

Objective: reduce plastic to help the environment

In addition to recycling plastic, it is necessary to implement measures that contribute to reducing the consumption of plastics, as well as developing new solutions that replace this material.

The first step in the human attempt to reduce the plastic footprint is to produce biodegradable polymers through the use of additives. However, this does not solve the problem of its petrochemical origin by having to use a non-renewable energy source. Work is also being done on the manufacturing of bioplastics based on materials such as starch or cellulose.

Biotechnology could also play an important role in this scenario, since it could be used to create microorganisms capable of degrading tons of waste that would continue to be generated despite recycling or the creation of new, more sustainable plastics.

Eliminate single-use plastics

Some governments are working to promote measures to reduce plastic, such as the Peruvian government, which launched the ‘Promises for Plastic’ campaign within the framework of COP25, linked to several commitments:

  • That no human being ingests microplastics through the consumption of fish and other marine animals.
  • Avoid the death of animals by ingesting plastic waste.
  • Stop the discharge of plastics into the ocean.
  • Implement laws for industries to reduce the production of single-use plastic.

In Argentina, a resolution was approved that banned the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags in hypermarkets, supermarkets and minimarkets for food and beverages.

In Mexico, one city is leading the fight against single-use plastics: Mexico City. The congress of the Mexican capital approved several reforms to the local Solid Waste Law and established that products such as straws, plates or plastic balloons cannot be distributed unless they are made of compostable materials. The Government of Colombia, which has a National Plan for the Sustainable Management of Single-Use Plastics, is also working along the same lines.

The Uruguayan Government, through its “Law on the sustainable use of plastic bags” established several measures to discourage their use and promote their reuse and recycling.

The Council of the European Union approved in March 2019 the disappearance of single-use plastics in 2021 such as:

  • Single-use plastic cutlery (spoons, forks, knives and chopsticks).
  • Disposable plastic plates.
  • Plastic drinking straws
  • Cotton swabs for the ears made of plastic.
  • Plastic sticks to hold balloons.
  • Oxo degradable plastics and food containers.

At the fourth United Nations Environment Assembly, a global agreement was reached in line with that of the EU to eliminate single-use plastics by 2030.

At BOMAC Industries, we strongly support all efforts of people, organizations, companies and governments to build a circular and sustainable economy. We keep investing in research and development of new technologies that can help us to recycle plastic and to produce alternatives such as biodegradable materials. Take a look at our latest products and see how you can help to build a cleaner world yourself.

How to organize an eco-friendly picnic

How to organize an eco-friendly picnic

Spread out the blanket, sit down, unpack the food – for many of us, a picnic is as much a part of summer as a visit to the outdoor pool or an ice cream cone. When you walk through the park and watch other people having a picnic, you might start wondering how much waste can be generated in a simple activity like a picnic. No wonder that many waste bins in the park are literally overflowing. Yet, it is very easy to have a picnic in a way that protects the environment and nature – not just with a view to the rubbish.

The most important part of the trick is the right packaging for the food and the right cutlery. In short: reusable is great, disposable is a flop. In their own home (hopefully) nobody would think of eating from a paper plate or drinking from one of those thin-walled plastic cups. So why at the picnic? An unbelievable 350,000 tons of waste are generated in Germany every year from disposable tableware and food to-go packaging. It’s insanity!

If you’re afraid of broken glass, you don’t necessarily have to take glasses or porcelain plates with you. There are now attractive, indestructible reusable tableware products that you can also borrow among friends or neighbors. For those three or four picnics a year, not everyone needs to be fully equipped.

The EU against disposable plastic plates

After all, the EU has taken on the issue and in 2019 legislated that since July 3, 2021 no plastic disposable plates and no plastic disposable cutlery may be sold any longer. The same applies to drinking straws and swizzle sticks made of single-use plastic. An exception is made for to-go beverage cups and plastic fast food packaging, which are still allowed – unless they are made of polystyrene. Retailers may then only sell goods that they already have in stock. However, anyone who remembers the ban on light bulbs in the EU knows how long such a sale of left stock can last.

Another word on plastic packaging and plastic tableware advertised as “biodegradable” or “compostable”: That’s no better. At best, these plastics decompose in industrial composting plants, but not in nature. And generally, this stuff isn’t even allowed in the bio bin.

Separate trash? Of course!

If there is rubbish at a picnic despite the reusable packaging, you should take it home with you and dispose of it properly – i.e. separately. The rubbish from the rubbish bin in the park is incinerated instead of being recycled. In the worst case, the wind will blow it away or birds will take it out of the bin to look for something to eat. So the garbage all too often ends up in nature and in our waters. Even if we threw it in the bin outside in the park.

Plant-based foods are the first choice

Of course, the food choices that we make when we picnic also have a huge impact on nature. The same applies here as at home: if you eat little meat, you protect the environment because animal husbandry on the scale usual today uses enormous amounts of water, space and energy and fuels both the climate crisis and the extinction of species. Vegetables and other plant-based foods are a far better choice.

Organic, fair, regional and seasonal – these quality features are crucial. Grapes in April, strawberries in October and chocolate without organic and fair trade labels harm nature, the environment and the people in the producing countries – regardless of whether we eat them at home at the dining table or in the wild.

A place in the countryside

Picnics in the great outdoors are allowed nearly everywhere. But not entirely everywhere. Picnics are taboo on flowering grasslands where orchids grow and butterflies and wild bees live, as well as in many nature reserves where you are not allowed to leave the paths. By the way, this is not a harassment, but serves to protect the plants and animals. So you should stick to it as much as possible – not just to avoid getting into trouble, but because it really makes sense.

How clothes are made from recycled plastic bottles

How clothes are made from recycled plastic bottles

Clothing can not only be made of natural fibers, but also from other materials that are completely less commonly known – for example, of plastics, recycled plastic of course, which are turned into polyester. Today we explain how a plastic bottle turns into quality clothing and why this trend holds great promises for the future.

Why should we recycle plastic in the first place?

According to the reports of the UN Committee for Nature Conservation, every year a million birds, hundreds of thousands of marine mammals and a huge number of fish die on earth due to plastic waste. Millions of tons of garbage, most of which is plastic, is dumped into the world’s oceans every year. A real garbage island (Eastern Garbage Patch) is already drifting in the Pacific Ocean, which is a very dense deposit of plastic and other waste. The island is twice the size of the United States.

In addition to caring for the fauna of the world’s oceans, there are many more reasons in favor of recycling plastic, for example, saving energy and reduction of greenhouse gases: research shows that replacing primary plastic material with recycled plastics in production can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

How does plastic turn into jeans and t-shirts

How many plastic bottles do we use and throw away every year? It’s hard to even count. All these plastic bottles of sunflower oil or mineral water are made of polyethylene terephthalate (abbreviated as PET).

This polyester is distributed in the world approximately like this: about 70% of plastic goes to the production of threads and fibers (and we get our usual polyester), about 30% goes to plastic bottles.

Interesting fact, in Russia, surprisingly, it is the opposite: in Russia, PET is used mainly for the production of plastic containers, primarily plastic bottles, and to a much lesser extent for processing into fibers.

In some cases, PET does not only turn into a bottle or a polyester fiber but does both, one after the other. We are talking about recycled plastic, which is usually called recycled polyester. Everything is possible thanks to the ability of this popular type of plastic to be easily recycled and returned to the consumer in a completely new form. For example, a plastic waste bottle can return to us in the form of new clothing through recycling process.

The technology for the formation of recycled polyester seems simple: caps and labels are removed from plastic bottles at recycling plants and bottles are sorted by color. Then the cleaned plastic is pressed, cut into small pieces and passed through a steam boiler. As a result of all process steps, a secondary granule or flake is formed, a material ready for the production of new products.

In particular, polyester is made from recycled granules – a fabric that is easy to wash, while the material dries quickly. After washing it does not change size and shape. Recycled polyester has become one of the main materials in the arsenal of eco-friendly designers.

Who produces clothes from recycled plastic

The use of household plastic waste for the production of clothing goes back to the late 90s. The process was first initiated by the classic fashion brand Paco Rabanne. After a couple of years, the idea began to be rapidly implemented in the industry: in 2002, the Canadian fashion duo Dsquared2 presented their recycled collection. At the show, the models gracefully walked the runway with trash bags in their hands, and all the clothes were made of recycled plastic. The extravagant move of the designers did not go unnoticed and gained many followers.

The ideas of sustainable fashion and sustainable clothing (eco-fashion and eco-clothing) unexpectedly received support both in the world of high fashion and in the area of ​​more affordable brands. In 2008, the American Apparel collection became the first to implement it in mass production – the creators of a cheap basic wardrobe in honor of Earth Day released a collection of accessories made from recycled plastic bottles.

A year later, under the influence of Stella McCartney, the sports company Adidas also joined the fight for the environment. Their special eco-friendly line is created exclusively from recycled plastic, turned into a special type of eco-polyester. Adidas uniforms made of recycled polyester (labeled as PES) were worn by about 70,000 volunteers at the London 2012 Olympics.

Recently, another sportswear giant, Nike, has also joined the recycling movement. In an interview, Charles Denson, Nike’s chief brand manager, stated that “Producing fabric from plastic bottles reduces energy consumption by 30% compared to production from virgin polyester fibers, but saving energy is not even the main advantage. We use 13 million plastic bottles in our football uniforms that would otherwise sit in landfills for centuries.”

Efficient recycling needs innovative technology

Efficient recycling needs innovative technology

Aluminium can be recycled an unlimited number of times with a high level of quality, especially if scrap can be sorted according to type. If you take the entire recycling process into account, on average only 5% of the energy that was used for the previous primary production is required. The light metal is thus a core component of a resource-saving circular economy. Sorted material fractions that are already mixed with exactly the amounts of alloying metal required for the intended next application are ideal for quick and clean recycling.

Aluminum manufacturers can secure such pure fractions from the residues of their own production processes. Though, it becomes more difficult with scrap from manufacturers further up in the supply chain, be it manufacturers of facades, packaging materials or vehicles. They usually use different alloys or materials and cannot separate every residue by type. It is even more difficult to obtain pure fractions when separating collected products at the end of their use: cans from street collection containers are common in many countries. Their components are often connected to plastics. Car parts are often joined from different groups of materials.

Norwegian Hydro continues to develop processes for sorting and separating materials, right down to the separation of alloy groups. An important basis is a technology funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment and offered for further licensing. With it, Hydro separates used components with the highest precision in the industry. Hydro Research & Development has perfected this technology to become the best sorting process for used beverage cans: since June 2016, a state-of-the-art facility in Neuss (Germany) has been processing up to 50,000 tons or 3 billion beverage cans a year. The short life cycle in particular makes the environmental advantage obvious; a can handed in for recycling via the Green Dot is often produced and filled back on the shelf in just 60 days.

Thanks to more and more aluminum, lighter vehicles are emerging that use less fuel and therefore emit less CO2. The press shops in the automotive industry punch various sheet metal components mostly from 5xxx or 6xxx aluminum alloys. This requires separation of production scrap and makes recycling of this scrap complex.

This applies all the more to the recycling of vehicles at the end of their useful life. When shredding vehicles, components often made of different alloys, for example with a high silicon content, are mixed together with wrought alloys with lower and different alloys. Due to its higher silicon content, the alloy mixture obtained from this can usually only be used as a starting material for cast alloys.

Leap in development for improved automobile recycling

On the other hand, the most modern sorting technology makes it possible to maintain the quality of the automotive materials. The problems that still exist with a clean separation of 5xxx and 6xxx alloys for recycling should soon be solved thanks to Hydro’s cooperation with the US company Austin AI. Their technology is based on laser-induced emission spectroscopy (LIBS: Laser-induced-breakdown-spectroscopy) and shows advantages compared to other LIBS configurations. There are already good results in clean sorting and clear separation of these alloys. A pilot project sorting plant is currently being built at Hydro R&D in Bonn in order to bring the process to robust industrial maturity.

LIBS was studied by Metallgesellschaft AG as early as the 1980s and later by Huron Valley Steel Corporation. This automated sorting technology uses a laser pulse to vaporize part of the sample surface. The resulting plasma is analyzed with spectrometers in milliseconds and compared with the sorting task. Pulses of compressed air then separate the desired aluminum parts from the rest of the scrap stream.

With today’s developments, particular attention is paid to economic feasibility using the latest laser and spectrometer technologies. This means: With a required throughput of a few tons per hour, depending on the weight, several hundred pieces of scrap must be analyzed and sorted within a second. The process then closes a highly effective cycle for scrap and end-of-life vehicles, with significant savings in energy, resources and effort – another boost for sustainable lightweight construction with aluminum.

Research and development of new technologies play an important role in the future of all kinds of recycling. BOMAC Industries is committed to the development of these technologies, not only for the recycling of aluminium, copper and other metals but for all kinds of waste such as plastic waste recycling and paper recycling as well.

Reusable instead of disposable: bring your own cup!

Reusable instead of disposable: bring your own cup!

Not just because we deal with packaging every day at BOMAC Industries: we are really shocked by the mountains of unnecessary waste. It might be good for filling up recycling plants, but it’s definitely a burden on the environment. Take a look on the way to the subway or in your own garbage can at home. This feeling, which many people have, is also statistically proven: we are producing more and more packaging waste! The reasons for this are diverse. New trends such as food to-go or online shopping are among them – but also convenience, because one-way is often practical: in the garbage can and problem solved, leaving it to others to figure out how to recycle it, if at all possible.

Reusable is an environmentally friendly alternative, but unfortunately this is usually more complex and therefore more expensive for industry and trade. For example, the reusable packaging rate for beverages has fallen from over 70 percent to just 42 percent in recent years. It will continue to decrease if we don’t demand refillable bottles and buy more regionally produced beverages in returnable bottles.

Almost all supermarkets now offer reusable nets in the fruit and vegetable department. However, the problem remains that there are still far too many pre-packed fruits and vegetables on the shelves: more than 60 percent of the goods. This creates over 90,000 tons of unnecessary waste every year. This is where companies finally have to unpack. It is best to buy loose goods in the reusable bag you have brought with you.

It takes a little more effort to take your own cans with you when you go shopping at the deli counter in order to save on disposable bags. It’s worth it – regardless of whether the bag saved is made of plastic or paper, because the negative impact on the environment from paper production is no less. From studies on large paper carrier bags, we know that these are even more serious than with plastic bags.

The mountains of waste from disposable tableware are also growing extremely. There is attractive reusable crockery for picnics and excursions, which can be shared with friends and in the neighborhood. And for drinks and food to-go, you can now bring your own cups and cans with you.

However, we find it particularly annoying that many cafés and snack bars now even serve disposables on site. Here we would like to encourage everyone: Take heart – and ask for normal dishes when ordering. Every ton of packaging saved is good for the environment. Therefore: Even if it is sometimes a bit more complex at the beginning until the routine has set in – the effort is worth it!

Interested in how you can contribute to a cleaner world and start a recycling plant to recycle all those disposable dishes? BOMAC Industries offers innovative solutions for plastic recycling to regain valuable materials and reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the environment and oceans every year. Take action today for a cleaner future.

Battery recycling: developments and challenges

Battery recycling: developments and challenges

The electric vehicle revolution, driven by the need to decarbonize private transport and improve air quality in urban centers, will not only radically change the automotive industry. The associated battery and ultimately also the waste and recycling industry are also facing fundamental changes. One category of batteries is playing an increasingly central role due to their energy storage capacity and light weight: lithium-ion batteries (LIBs, also known as lithium-ion rechargeable batteries). Basically, the individual small battery cells of a LIB consist of conductive aluminium or copper layers. In between there is an anode, usually made of graphite, and a cathode, the composition of which differs greatly depending on the technology: While currently mainly lithium iron phosphate batteries and lithium nickel cobalt aluminum batteries are used, in the future the lithium-nickel-manganese-cobalt technology will probably take over the lead in various compositions. As a result, lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese and graphite will play an increasingly important role in the global raw materials market as important battery raw materials. To date, most LIBs have been sold in the consumer electronics space, but future sales will increasingly be driven by electric vehicles.

As early as 2017, an estimated one million LIBs accounted for about 6 percent of total cobalt demand and 9 percent of total lithium demand. This development is particularly visible in China, which, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, already had over 73 percent of the world’s lithium cell production capacity in 2019, followed by the United States, which ranks second with 12 percent of the world’s capacity. Global demand for batteries will increase 14-fold by 2030, and the EU could cover 17 percent of that demand. In addition, the exponential global growth in demand for batteries will lead to a corresponding increase in demand for raw materials, particularly cobalt, lithium, nickel and manganese, which will have a significant impact on the environment.

The increasing use of batteries will also lead to an increase in the amount of waste. The number of recyclable lithium batteries is expected to increase 700-fold between 2020 and 2040. Setting up a suitable, economical system for the recycling of old electronic devices and LIB waste therefore seems essential.

Big benefits and big challenges: recycling of LIBs

When recycling batteries, a distinction must be made between pure reuse and the extraction of raw materials. After primary use in electric vehicles, for example, used batteries are expected to retain 60 to 80 percent of their original capacity, allowing for reuse in other applications such as grid storage. However, if the batteries are no longer useful, they must be disposed of and ideally recycled. The recycling of LIBs is a comparatively complex and sometimes very energy-intensive process. According to a study by McKinsey&Company, the industry is currently primarily concerned with the disposal of potentially hazardous used consumer electronics products, rather than extracting the materials for reuse. So far, only cobalt, nickel and sometimes manganese can be economically recovered from active materials with today’s recycling processes. McKinsey&Company estimate that 12 to 15 kilotons of cobalt and almost no lithium were recovered from recycling in 2017. Lithium has so far only been extracted in experimental pilot plants.

An important factor in the economics of recycling lithium, nickel, cobalt and possibly manganese is that the materials continue to be used in relatively high proportions in cell chemistries. If the composition and proportion of the materials changes in the future, recycling could also become uneconomical here. In existing pilot plants, LIBs are first manually unloaded, dismantled and then processed either pyrometallurgically (melting and extracting) or hydrometallurgically (leaching and extracting). During thermal treatment, lithium can be washed from the later slag, for example, or recovered from flue gas systems. In the hydrometallurgical process, on the other hand, materials are treated with acids and alkalis and thus separated from one another. Due to the energy intensive nature of pyrometallurgical processes, it is more likely that the hydrometallurgical process will be further developed in the future. But despite the recycling process, which has so far been complex, the European countries are likely to have a great interest in rapid development: some studies indicate that electric vehicles emit more greenhouse gases during production and fewer during the use phase compared to vehicles with combustion engines. As such, reducing emissions from manufacturing will be one of the key concerns in reaping the emissions benefits of e-mobility. The use of recycled materials is seen as a crucial method. In fact, according to a study by Tsinghua University, recycling electric vehicles can help reduce about 35 percent of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions during the manufacturing phase. In the case of LIBs, incorrect storage and disposal can mean not only a loss of important raw materials, but also environmental pollution and health risks.

But not only the environmental and health risks are becoming increasingly relevant. The strong global demand for necessary raw materials can also lead to supply bottlenecks. Disruptions in the supply chain of raw materials can drive up material costs, reducing the benefit of learning from battery price reductions. This was already the case in late 2018 when the price of cobalt rose more than fourfold in 15 months due in part to rising demand and in part to political instability at the largest cobalt producer – the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although the price of cobalt has declined since then, concerns about supply shortages and volatility in commodity prices remain. Thus, recycling represents a way to reduce both supply risks and negative externalities in production and subsequent extraction of critical elements.

The politicians are failing when it comes to circular economy

The politicians are failing when it comes to circular economy

The conversion of our linear economic model into a resource-saving circular economy is one of the central environmental policy challenges of this decade and beyond. In fact, only the energy-related aspects find their way into a broad public discussion and thus also create political pressure to act.

This became apparent by the many economic stimulus packages from the past years all over the world. Many countries, especially within the EU, agreed that climate technologies and climate protection measures should be promoted more than before. For the first time ever in modern German history, the automotive industry had to realize that politicians are not just their executive partners, but they are also demanding an urgently needed restructuring of the industry. The environmental organizations would have wished for more, but in the field of climate and mobility there were many right incentives over the past years.

However, the governments are completely lacking vision when it comes to the circular economy. The terms “recycling” or “resource conservation” do not appear in any economic stimulus packages. Like other branches of industry, companies in the recycling industry can look forward to reductions in VAT and bridging financial aid. But that is it. An ecological tax reform was nowhere considered nor debated. This could provide both economic and ecological stimuli by shifting the tax burden away from employees and towards resource consumption. Scientists have come up with many concepts ranging from CO2 taxes for energy-intensive materials to material input taxes. It is time to introduce them to everyday policymaking.

Strengthen resource policy

In addition to fiscal measures, the transformation to a circular economy requires clear framework conditions and a regulatory policy that economic actors can use as a guide. Almost everyone in can say something about climate protection goals and CO2 avoidance, but there are no similar goals for the recycling of our resources. Analogous to climate policy, a resource policy is needed that clearly specifies how many raw materials we can still use in the future in order to operate within the planetary boundaries. We need an indicator that stipulates when we will cover a certain percentage of our resource requirements with recycled material. Where this is not achieved, the use of recycled materials must be increased through targeted incentive programs and the costs for primary materials increased.

Of course, such a catalog of measures cannot be accommodated in a single economic stimulus package. However, there are currently many fields of action in which the EU can achieve a change towards more circularity. Politicians in Europe should campaign for the rapid implementation of the “Circular Economy Action Plan”, which provides for a sustainable product policy and focuses on durability, reparability and “design for recycling”. This is an important step away from circular waste management towards a real circular economy. They should campaign in particular for quotas for the use of recycled materials.

Market failure in the recycling of plastic

The plastics industry must be one of the main recipients of such quotas. Because when it comes to the recycling of plastic, one has to speak of a market failure. The previous low oil price coupled with low demand for recycled plastics destroyed the first major projects using recycled plastics. This will not change without clear guidelines.

But there are currently a number of political options in the EU as well. By strengthening public procurement of reusable, easy-to-repair and recycling-friendly products with a high proportion of recycled materials, the EU could stimulate demand.

It is frightening to see the generosity with which money is being distributed to a wide variety of sectors, while efficient measures in environmental legislation are being completely ignored. The EU must make clear adjustments here. Because if politicians don’t succeed in turning these small screws, how will they manage to turn the big wheel of the circular economy?

For anyone who is interested in ways to set up a recycling business, we composed an article about the opportunities of investing in plastic recycling. BOMAC Industries offers a wide range of plastic recycling equipment and can support you with technical advice.

Waste is a resource – it’s worth separating!

Waste is a resource – it’s worth separating!

Among many people, we keep hearing the argument that it’s not worth separating waste because everything would end up being thrown together again anyway. Recently, there has also been a growing fear that the neatly separated plastic waste might even be exported and end up on the beaches of Asia. We would like to clear up these “fairy tales” at this point.

Waste is not just waste

Even if there is still a lot of potential in recycling: packaging waste can only be recycled at all if everyone separates the waste at home. So we decide on the basis for recycling ourselves every day. It is by no means the case that the waste from the yellow bin is simply thrown back into the residual waste. Rather, “the best” is fished out of the waste in the yellow bin in the sorting plants: This means material for which there is currently a commercial market, such as white shampoo bottles or beverage cartons. The rest goes to special waste incineration plants. Unfortunately, even in an environmentally conscious country like Germany, only half of the plastic packaging waste is recycled. That’s because “fresh plastic” is cheaper for the economy to produce than recycled plastic, and there hasn’t been a government mandate to recycle more plastic packaging for years.

Only in 2019 did the German Federal Government set new binding “recycling quotas”. Without such quotas, there is no incentive for businesses to invest in the expensive recycling systems. By this year, 63 percent of plastic waste will have to be recycled. This is ambitious and only works if the packaging is designed to be more recycling-friendly, if more recycled plastics are used in products and packaging – and this is where the circle closes – if everyone separates their waste at home.

Receipts don’t belong in the waste paper? But egg cartons, even if there is a green dot on the carton? If you are unsure about what needs to be separated, ecosistant has composed an article about how to separate waste correctly.

The export problem

As far as the export of plastic waste from Germany is concerned: one million tons of plastic waste were exported in 2019 (not just packaging), which is about a sixth of all plastic waste. There are also unrecorded illegal exports. Packaging from Germany has also been found in Southeast Asia. However, according to the current state of knowledge, the waste seems to be primarily of commercial origin, i.e. waste that occurs in production and trade. On the other hand, 99 percent of the waste from the yellow bin is recycled within the EU and for the most part in Germany itself. We therefore appeal to everyone not to stop separating the rubbish at home under any circumstances.

Waste is an important source of raw materials for the future. In view of the ever-increasing global consumption of natural raw materials and the pollution of air, soil and water, we have to recycle all materials and reuse them as often as possible. BOMAC Industries provides high-tech recycling equipment for competitive market prices to help all efforts to increase the amount of plastic waste that is recycled in Europe and America. But don’t forget: avoiding waste is of course even more important than recycling! In view of the global scarcity of resources, the best waste is that which is not created in the first place.

Our plastic waste abroad – where does our waste go?

Our plastic waste abroad – where does our waste go?

Around one million tons of plastic waste are exported from the UK every year. In addition to the EU member states, target countries are also various Southeast Asian countries or Turkey. It has long been known that some of these exports have significant negative consequences for the environment and for the local population in the importing countries (all information on plastic waste exports).

To address this problem, the EU Waste Shipment Regulation has been revised. Since January 1, 2021, certain plastic waste may no longer be exported from EU countries to countries such as Malaysia, India or Indonesia. Despite the fact that the UK doesn’t adhere to EU regulations anymore since Brexit, also the pressure on the UK government to ban all plastic waste exports is growing. But what exactly does it mean being banned under current EU regulations? And does that solve the problem of plastic waste exports and promote plastic recycling in the EU?

Ban only applies to exports to selected countries

The export ban on plastic waste only applies to exports from the EU to countries that are not members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). This includes most countries in the so-called Global South and thus restricts, for example, the export of plastic waste to Southeast Asia.

Conversely, however, the regulation means that exports to OECD countries, such as Turkey, Israel, Mexico or Colombia, are still permitted. And even within the EU, waste can still be traded between the member states.

The EU Commission justifies these different regulations with the fact that it is possible in EU and OECD countries to recycle plastic waste in a high-quality and environmentally friendly manner. But this is a fallacy. Reports of improper waste disposal and illegal landfill fires in countries like Poland and Turkey have increased in recent years. And even if the waste from Germany for example is actually recycled in those other EU member states, it proves the already scarce capacities for the recycling of domestic waste.

We of BOMAC Industries support the development of environmental friendly recycling installations and are committed to increasing recycling capacities in Europe and America. We do this by offering companies state-of-the-art recycling equipment for plastic recycling of any kind. This includes but is not limited to PET bottle recycling lines and plastic bag recycling lines. Also for electronic waste we offer electric cable recycling lines.

Ban only applies to certain types of plastic waste

The export ban from the EU to countries in the Global South only applies to the export of unsorted plastic waste. Because these waste mixtures can hardly or not at all be recycled. However, an exception applies to mixtures of the common plastic types polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). These are not affected by the export ban.

And even sorted waste, if it is not classified as hazardous waste, can still be exported anywhere, including countries with a poorly developed waste disposal industry. The only requirement: both the exporting and the importing country must agree to the trade.

Plastic waste can also continue to cross borders within the EU. From now on, a permit is required for mixed plastic waste, but there are also various exceptions for special mixtures. Sorted waste, including particularly environmentally hazardous plastics such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), can still be exported without restrictions.

It is still unclear when a waste fraction is actually considered to be sorted. Even if the waste has been separated by type of plastic (PE, PP, PET, etc.), the sorted fraction usually still contains a certain amount of foreign matter. However, the larger this proportion, the more difficult it is to recycle. For this reason, EU limit values ​​are currently being drawn up that define the maximum permitted proportion of foreign substances.

A first step has been taken, but this is too small

The numerous exceptions mean that large quantities of plastic waste continue to be exported from for example Germany. The export ban on mixed plastic waste to countries in the Global South is an important step, but exports to Turkey or Eastern Europe are still possible.

The law can only work if it is enforced

In the waste sector, even the most ambitious legislation is worth nothing without checks and sanctions. Reports of illegal waste exports, for example through incorrectly declared waste, have recently increased. In order for the new export regulations to be effective, the control capacities at the ports and on the motorways must be expanded. This is the only way to guarantee that, for example, the shipping container to Malaysia only contains sorted waste or that the specified waste is actually loaded on the truck bound for Poland.

Our view: invest in domestic recycling facilities!

If the UK, as one of the wealthiest countries in the world with one of the best developed waste infrastructures, is not in a position to recycle its own waste, then this shows one thing: We live beyond our means and produce an amount of waste that we can’t handle without the “help” of other countries. The most important approach is therefore not to allow waste to arise in the first place. This requires legally binding waste prevention targets. Furthermore, the sorting and recycling infrastructures within the UK and the EU must be expanded.