OECD urges global governments to improve plastic recycling

Plastic recycling is being held back by low recovery rates, poor quality of recycled plastic and a lack of price incentives according to a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The Improving Markets for Recycled Plastics: Trends, Prospects and Policy Responses report urges governments around the globe to act fast to encourage more recycling at a better quality.

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It attributes the lag in plastic recycling to the fact it is cheaper to create products from new plastic than it is to recycle plastic. The report also said primary plastics can be priced higher than recycled plastic, due to it usually being better quality.

Hazardous chemical additives can also survive in recycling plastics, which the report says weighs on secondary markets.

It estimates the world produces around eight times as much new plastic compared to recycled plastic.

The OECD report calls for stronger incentives to be provided for better designed plastic goods, as well as an investment in waste collection infrastructure and source separation. A product label system that shows how much recycled content is in a product was suggested to create consumer driven demand.

Heavier taxes on the manufacture of new plastics was also suggested to reduce the demand in items such as single use bags, cutlery or drinking straws.

Barriers to recycling identified by the report include the view that recycled plastics are substitutes, prices of recycled plastics being driven by oil costs instead of collection, sorting and processing, a smaller and fragmented plastics recycling sector, the market being concentrated in a few countries, and technical challenges associated with the variety of polymers and additives.

Waste plastics often remain in the environment, posing a threat to wildlife and marine creatures. Only 15 per cent of plastic waste is recycled globally, with 25 per cent being incinerated and the remainder sent to landfill according to the report.

The report will be presented at the Global forum on Environment: Sustainable Plastic Design in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Australian student’s prawn shell plastic goes global

An Australian student’s bioplastic innovation has gone global and will be representing Australia at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF).

Angelina Arora started investigating bioplastics when she 15 after she was inspired by being asked to pay for a plastic bag at a shop. It prompted her to think of a way people could still have the convenience of plastic without the harmful environmental effects.

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She will represent Australia alongside over 1,800 high school students from 75 countries, regions, and territories in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

After she became a finalist in the 2017 BHP Billiton Foundation Science and Engineering awards for her research into the commercial viability of bioplastics, she began to work closely with a CSIRO mentor to develop a completely biodegradable plastic made from prawn shell and sticky protein from silkworm silk.

“I’m driven by wanting to help – whether it’s people, the environment or animals. It was amazing after months of research that I found a plastic that was suitable,” Ms Arora said.

“I was always a curious child asking why things work and this developed into a love of science. I believe science is the key to all the worlds’ mysteries.

“I couldn’t imagine a future where it isn’t part of my life. I think I’d like to go into medicine as it is all about helping people,” she said.

CSIRO Education and Outreach Director Mary Mulcahy said showcasing Australia’s brilliant science, technology, engineering and mathematics projects on the world stage was a key part in enabling Australia to adapt for a rapidly changing future.

“The world is changing faster than many of us can keep up with, but science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) can guide that future through innovation,” Ms Mulcahy said.

“These students are showing on a world stage that Australian students are prepared more than ever for the future.”

Pictured: Angelina Arora. Source: CSIRO

Australian company will convert China’s waste plastic to fuel

Australian company, Integrated Green Energy Solutions (IGES), has announced a joint venture agreement with the Chinese Crown World Holdings (CWH) to expand its plastic-to-fuel production operations in China.

The agreement targets construction of a waste plastic-to-fuel facility in Weifang in Shandon Province of China. The facility will have an initial production capacity of 200 tonnes per day, producing 70 million litres of road-ready fuels per annum.

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The proposed site has existing infrastructure and sufficient space to expand the facility to over 600 tonnes per day as the joint venture ramps up supply and offtake activities.

The first project will be jointly funded by both parties, with IGES contributing US$12.75 million (AU$16.41 million) and CWH contributing US$12.25 million (AU$15.77 million).

Crown World Holdings is a wholly owned subsidiary of Beautiful China Holdings (BCH), committed to becoming the leading eco-environmental protection operation and service provider in China.

In 2017, the Chinese government notified the World Trade Organisation it intended to ban the import of all scrap plastics and unsorted paper by the end of 2017 as part of a broad clean-up effort against “foreign garbage.”

As of January 2018, China enforced this policy. The move has hit Europe’s recycling industry hard, as 87 per cent of Europe’s waste ended up in China.

As China has committed to cleaning up the plastic problem that has led them to ban foreign plastics, IGES is using the opportunity to help the country convert the waste plastics into road-ready diesel fuel, using its patented pyrolysis technology.

IGES’s patented plastic-to-fuel process enables the company to reduce the environmental impacts of waste plastic, that would otherwise be used in landfills or discarded into the environment.

Earlier in January, IGES had announced the purchase of an Amsterdam-based entity with a fully approved and sanctioned Environmental Approval Permit, enabling IGES to produce road-ready diesel that meets European Standard EN590 and gasoline by December 2018.

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