Advanced mechanical recycling and collaboration along the value chain
Increasing the use of recycled content requires the entire industry to take action, design recyclable packaging, and improve the supply of quality recyclates with both new and existing instruments. Applying the Holistic Resource Systems approach to waste management combines deposit return systems (DRS), separate collections for selected material streams, and mixed waste sorting to recover plastics for advanced mechanical recycling.
Beyond dedicated collection streams, the addition of mixed waste sorting is also proving to deliver high-quality plastic for recycling. A case study with AVR, a residual waste sorting plant in the Netherlands, demonstrated that mixed waste sorting with high-performing technologies can capture 12 times more plastics for recycling, cutting down on CO2 emissions. Other sorting facilities, such as the Norwegian companies IVAR IKS or ROAF, also demonstrate the enormous potential that mixed waste sorting offers if municipalities and businesses invest in advanced technologies and processes.
Today, recyclers and sorting plant operators are faced with the task of cleaning contaminated waste to a level suitable for further processing or local trading. At the same time, brand owners and converters that buy PCR are demanding high-purity mono fractions, sorted by polymer type and colors. By adopting new sensor-based sorting technology, plant operators can effectively sort and purify high-value plastics from waste streams to supply PET or PO fractions to the market. To create more valuable products, a combination of pre-sorting and flake sorting solutions is needed. First, near-infrared (NIR) sorters separate targeted plastics from contaminants such as unwanted polymers and foreign materials. The purified plastics are then shredded, washed, and dried.