Accelerating reuse models to achieve a world free of plastic waste

Read the full story from the World Economic Forum.

The World Economic Forum’s Consumers Beyond Waste initiative is driving a shift towards reuse models through the standardization of measurement and is elevating reuse as a critical aspect of the UN agreement on plastic pollution.

Half of global plastic production is for single-use and only 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling; reliance on recycling alone will not solve the waste problem.

The production of plastic also increases carbon emissions since it is a by-product of petroleum and it impacts health, with microplastics recently found in human blood.

Busting the solar myth: A call to embrace the circular renewable economy

Read the full story at Utility Dive.

While there are significant global environmental and social incentives to using solar energy, its resource intensity calls into question whether solar is truly “green.”

Emerging technologies tackle upstream food waste

Read the full story at Food Business News.

Enhancing liquidation processes, reducing the impact of mycotoxins and extending the shelf life of products are just a handful of potential solutions for reducing food waste. ReFED also recommends farmers explore new arrangements with buyers to expand product specifications and enable better upstream communication. Building direct relationships with food recovery organizations and employing tools that track yield patterns also are avenues for mitigating waste at the farm level.

Opportunities exist for manufacturers to create more upcycled product lines using edible byproducts. ReFED also encourages manufacturers to consider reengineering processes and redesigning products to reduce waste during production and product line changeovers.

Vinyl Institute launches PVC recycling grant program

Read the full story in Recycling Today.

The Washington-based Vinyl Institute (VI), a U.S. trade association representing manufacturers of vinyl, has announced the formation of the Viability program. VI says this is a first-of-its-kind, industrywide recycling grant program aimed at accelerating postconsumer polyvinyl chloride (PVC) recycling in the country.   

According to a news release from VI, the grant program will make available up to $1 million in funds each year for the next three years from four PVC resin manufacturers in the U.S.: Formosa Plastics, based in New Jersey, and OxyShintech and Westlake, all based in Houston. 

The use of e-waste in concrete

Read the full story at AZOBuild.

Staggering amounts of waste are produced by industrial and domestic activity. Utilizing waste to produce value-added products is a central focus of research, and waste streams are being increasingly utilized in building materials. This article will explore the potential use of e-waste in concrete.

EU Council and Parliament strike provisional deal to regulate batteries throughout their life cycle

Read the full story at Waste Management World.

Back in December 2020 the European Commission presented a proposal for the regulation on batteries. It was in March of this year that the Council adopted a general approach and the European Parliament adopted its negotiating position. Now those two have reached a provisional agreement that aims to create a circular economy for the batteries sector by targeting all stages of the life cycle of batteries, from design to waste treatment.

The new regulation will apply to all batteries including all waste portable batteries, electric vehicle batteries, industrial batteries, starting, lightning and ignition (SLI) batteries (used mostly for vehicles and machinery) and batteries for light means of transport (e.g. electric bikes, e-mopeds, e-scooters). The regulation will replace the current batteries directive of 2006 and complete the existing legislation, particularly in terms of waste management.

NREL develops systematic framework to compare performance of plastics recycling approaches

With only a small percentage of plastics recycled, determining the best way to recycle and reuse these materials may enable higher adoption of plastics recycling and reduce plastic waste pollution. Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) examined the benefits and trade-offs of current and emerging technologies for recycling certain types of plastics to determine the most appropriate options.

The researchers provided a comparison of various technologies for closed-loop recycling, which allow for the reuse of plastic through mechanical or chemical processing, eliminating the need for fossil-fuel-derived virgin materials. They considered technical metrics such as material quality and retention, as well as environmental metrics including energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

“We know cost is one of the primary—if not the primary—drivers for recycling for companies wanting to invest in it,” said Taylor Uekert, lead author of “Technical, economic, and environmental comparison of closed-loop recycling technologies for common plastics,” which appears in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering. “But I think it’s just so important to remember that there are other things that are equally important for our life on this planet, and we need to be considering those environmental impacts as well.”

Her co-authors, all from NREL, are Avantika Singh, Jason DesVeaux, Tapajyoti Ghosh, Arpit Bhatt, Geetanjali Yadav, Shaik Afzal, Julien Walzberg, Katrina Knauer, Scott Nicholson, Gregg Beckham, and Alberta Carpenter.

The article outlines how effectively closed-loop recycling technologies would work on polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and three types of polyolefins: high-density polyethylene (HDPE), low-density polyethylene (LDPE), and polypropylene (PP). These plastics have many uses. PET, for instance, is used to make bottles, trays, and carpets. HDPE is found in milk jugs, bags, containers, and toys. LDPE is commonly used to manufacture squeezable bottles, lids, and bags. PP, meanwhile, is used to make yogurt tubs, hangers, and straws.

The recycling rates of these polymers varied in the United States during 2019, from 2% for LDPE to 15% for PET bottles and containers.

“PET is like your common single-use water bottle,” Uekert said. “You might recycle that. But most likely it’s not going to come out the other end as a bottle. It’s going to come out as a plastic tray for putting food on or it might be converted to plastic fibers that could be used for clothing. It’s going back into the same type of plastic, but not necessarily the exact same type of plastic product.”

Two closed-loop recycling methods are available for HDPE, LDPE, and PP plastics: mechanical, in which the plastic is ground up, melted, and made into something new; and solvent-based dissolution, which removes impurities so that the plastic is of suitable quality for reuse. Those same processes can be used on PET in addition to three chemical recycling technologies: enzymatic hydrolysis, glycolysis, and methanolysis.

More than 400 million metric tons of plastic waste is generated globally each year. Current recycling strategies can capture a fraction of these plastics, but there is a lack of consistent data on the capabilities and impacts of these processes. The NREL study quantitatively characterized the performance of plastic recycling technologies—including factors that are usually only discussed qualitatively, like contamination tolerance—and established a methodology for comparing new recycling processes as they emerge.

“It’s not just that you can recycle plastic,” Uekert said. “It’s how effectively can you recycle that plastic?”

Although mechanical recycling outperforms all other technologies as well as virgin plastic production across economic and environmental metrics, the process yields lower quality plastic. Increasing the quality and quantity of plastics to be recycled through better sorting and pretreatment could improve the viability of mechanical recycling, the researchers said.

“To really enable a circular system where we keep as much material in the economy as possible, that’s when we really need to improve our [material] retention through things like better sorting and better yields of your recycling processes,” Uekert said. “If you have a process that only has a 75% yield, you’re going to end up needing slightly more electricity, slightly more chemicals, to recycle one kilogram of plastic than you would if you had something like a 90% or higher yield. That means your overall environmental impacts, your overall cost, is going to decrease as you increase your material retention.”

The researchers pointed out recycling should be treated as a decarbonization opportunity, with the technologies using electricity that could be generated from renewable sources.

Funding came from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office and Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Technologies Office as part of the BOTTLE Consortium, a collaborative effort that stands for Bio-Optimized Technologies to keep Thermoplastics out of Landfills and the Environment.

Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Loop touts retail store expansion as standalone e-commerce program sunsets

Read the full story at Waste Dive.

Loop, TerraCycle’s reusable packaging program, ended 2022 with about 150 active retail locations worldwide. This includes about three dozen U.S. locations, with grocery pilots at Fred Meyer in Oregon and Giant Food in Washington, D.C., and home delivery for Walmart customers in Arkansas.

Loop launched in 2019 as a standalone e-commerce platform to manage reusable container distribution and collection, but that concept largely is being phased out as the retail program gains traction. Going forward, Loop’s e-commerce presence will be integrated with partners, such as Walmart’s home delivery website, according to the company.

Loop plans for further growth in 2023, with announced expansions coming in France and Japan. It will also work with U.S. retail partners to build the reuse ecosystem and increase product distribution, although concrete plans haven’t yet been made public, according to Clem Schmid, general manager at Loop Global.

Stadiums pursue new technologies and tactics to boost waste diversion

Read the full story at Waste Dive.

As fans flock back to large venues, many are seeing new or updated waste initiatives. Operators are experimenting with different collection systems, reusable cups, reverse vending machines and more.

Turning plastic waste into a valuable soil additive

Read the full story from the University of California, Riverside.

Chemical and environmental engineers detailed a method to convert plastic waste into a highly porous form of charcoal that has a whopping surface area of about 400 square meters per gram of mass. It could potentially be added to soil to improve water retention and aeration of farmlands.