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Recycling Is More Relevant than Ever – It Saves Raw Materials and Cuts Disposal Costs in the Food and Packaging Industry Too

  • MARZO 2009 ANUGA FOOD TEC

  

The 5th amendment to the German Packaging Ordinance (Verpackungsverordnung), which prescribes stricter regulations for the recycling of packaging materials, took effect on January 1, 2009. Trade and industry must now declare all packaging materials put into circulation in a dual system responsible for the disposal and recycling in the raw material cycle. Previously, the system had always had gaps and points that were unclear. In the future, trade and industry will also be required to submit an annual completeness declaration that documents what packaging materials have gone to private consumers in what quantities. This is intended to ensure that “free riders” cannot put more packaging into circulation without providing for its disposal and recycling. There is no fundamental change for the end-consumer. He or she will continue to dispose of packaging in the yellow bin, waste paper in the blue bin, and glass bottles and jars in public and private collection containers, sorted according to white, green and brown.High recycling rates bring major benefits
In addition to having recyclables sorted as well as possible, achieving high recovery rates for the secondary raw materials is the most important prerequisite for efficient and environmentally friendly recycling of packaging materials. The recycling rate for packaging steel, for instance, rose to 90.9 percent in 2007, surpassing the record rate of 2006 yet again. For packaging materials made of tinplate, the recycling rate was an impressive 92.5 percent. The quota prescribed by law in the Packaging Ordinance is 70 percent. This high figure is the result of the marked decline in the use of tinplate following the introduction in 2003 of the deposit on non-reusable beverage packaging, as well as a greater motivation to collect secondary raw materials because of the €0.25 deposit and the high prices for all raw materials on the world market, although these have now fallen steeply again in the wake of the economic crisis. But even if the prices are low, the total quantity of raw materials in the world is still limited. It is therefore welcome news that over 50 percent of the material used in European beverage cans, for example, is recycled.

 

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Recycling is better than incineration
For combustible waste like cardboard, paper and plastics, recycling the material is clearly preferable to energetic recovery, as in incineration, because the former process reduces both the incidence of greenhouse gases and the demand for new raw materials, both renewable and non-renewable. In the case of beverage cartons, for example, it is estimated that collecting the cartons in the yellow bins and bags, separating them into their basic constituents and recycling them results in 20 percent less greenhouse gas, compared to incineration. It then becomes straightforward to use the pulp fibres in those materials a second time in folding cartons, for instance, and these will later be given yet another life as packaging along with the paper and cardboard.

Plastics are handled much the same way. After their first life as packaging for high-quality foods, such high-grade materials as PET, polyethylene or polypropylene are much too good to simply throw away or incinerate. For one thing, they will be much too expensive to forgo reusing their outstanding material characteristics through recycling, once the price of oil rises again. PET, in particular, which is favoured for liquid foods, is used in high-quality textile fibres, but it is also increasingly being used again directly as “R-Pet” in preforms for food and beverage applications, thanks to special treatment processes. The modern treatment techniques in use are sufficient to allay any technical or hygienic concerns. The European organization Petcore, which specializes in the collection and treatment of used PET, expects that by 2010 more than a million tonnes of PET will be collected and recycled in Europe each year.

Thanks to highly developed sorting techniques, the various synthetic fractions can be separated almost perfectly. These processes recover not only the group of polyolefins, which includes polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) – the most important packaging plastics – but also polystyrene (PS) and the aforementioned PET. Depending on the level of impurity and sorting accuracy, the PE and PP are treated using a variety of separation techniques, a washing process, and subsequent extrusion in single- or twin-screw extruders. Other plastics may be incorporated here also as additives or admixtures to obtain a recyclate with the desired material properties. The resulting granulates can be processed further with the conventional injection moulding techniques.
No loss of quality through recycling
Glass is one of the oldest packaging materials still in use today. After being collected in the bins and containers near households, it finds its way back to the glassworks and can be turned into new packaging glass as often as necessary without loss of quality. The manufacturers of the container-glass industry were among the first to work with a functioning raw materials recycling system, long before this was mandated by waste prevention laws. For technical reasons, the production of new container glass requires shards of glass waste in order to achieve the desired result. Hence, every beverage bottle and every glass jar consists of 70 to 75 percent waste glass. But the overall decline in the use of such proven packaging materials as glass and tinplate with their high recycling rates has led in recent years to a falling rate of recycling overall. But raw materials prices, which are expected to increase in the medium and long term, and the dumping ban on non-treated waste are now starting to reverse the trend again.
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At Anuga FoodTec, from 10th to 13th March 2009, in Cologne, experts from the food industry will have ample opportunity to learn about current packaging technologies and see the benefits of packaging materials that can be recycled well and combine outstanding processing characteristics with economy in material usage, optimal product protection and convenience aspects.

 More info… http://www.anugafoodtec.com