Research led by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has concluded that collection and recycling of mixed plastics is technically and commercially viable, although a closed loop for key food polymers such as polypropylene (PP) is still some way off.
Users of milk bottle-grade high density polyethylene (HDPE) and polyethylene terephthalate are benefitting from growing recovery rates in the UK for bottles and the greater availability of food-grade recyclate.
Ed Kosior, md of Nextek, a company currently pursuing spin-off research in this area, explained: "The big target for WRAP is landfill diversion."
The evidence suggests that sorting and recycling of plastics such as PP and coloured HDPE is achievable, and could establish markets in sectors such as gardening and construction. "Currently, PP trays and other packaging are classified as being 'not recyclable', but we want to make all our materials sustainable," Kosior added.
Paul Davidson, WRAP's plastics technology manager, said: "We are running a food-grade PP research and development scoping study to see if the recycled HDPE process can be adapted for PP, and what the barriers to commercialising this would be. They are significant but, we believe, not insurmountable."
WRAP believes that food-grade recycled PP is "still a few years away"