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Economy & Markets

AF&PA releases guide to further advance paper recycling

The guide provides data on how certain non-fiber elements, such as coatings and additives, impact the recyclability of paper-based packaging.

“Paper recycling is a circular economy success story. Increasingly, consumers are seeking more sustainable packaging, and as a result, brands are challenged to add more recyclable packaging to their portfolio. Combining our industry’s track record on paper recycling – meeting or exceeding a 63 percent recycling rate since 2009 – along with AF&PA’s industry data and statistics, this guide will be a true asset to those seeking to innovate around sustainable packaging. I am confident that a deeper understanding, as to the complexities brands and packaging designers face in balancing design and performance with recyclability, will further advance paper recycling innovation,” said Heidi Brock, AF&PA President and CEO. The findings in the report are the result of an AF&PA member survey of company mills in a range of sectors in the United States and Canada. The survey had a 75 percent response rate. In total, data for 86 mills was reported.

The study included corrugated packaging, bleached and unbleached paperboard cartons, carrier stock cartons, Kraft paper bags, multiwall shipping sacks and molded fiber containers. The study examined numerous non-fiber elements including inks and dyes, adhesives, tapes and labels, coatings and barriers, metals and plastics, foils, wet strength, and non-tree fibers.

Key findings include:

  • Non-fiber elements may present a recycling “challenge” when they slow down the mill’s pulping process, plug screening systems or leave residue on finished paper or paperboard. However, innovations in packaging design and materials, as well as improvements in recycling technology, have made these treatments easier to recycle than historically.
  • Being a “challenge” does not mean “not recyclable.” Each non-fiber element applied to each kind of packaging was rated by some mills as not a “challenge.”

“This technical guidance is not meant to be mandatory or a standard for the packaging industry. Rather, it is an information tool to help individuals and organizations that specify and design packaging to better meet a customer’s recycling needs,” said Brian Hawkinson, AF&PA’s Executive Director of Recovered Fiber.

In addition to data about the impact non-fiber elements have on packaging recyclability, the report includes resources about the recycling process, standards and testing facilities and insights from mills on specific non-fiber elements.

The Design Guidance for Recyclability is available for free

EuRIC calls upon the Commission to support continued use of tyre-derived granular infill

With the release of ECHA´s opinions on infill materials, now it is up to the Commission to take a decision on what measures to follow as regards this application.

EuRIC warns about the negative impacts that some of the options covered, including a complete ban, may have on the environment and on the objectives of speeding the transition towards a more circular economy.

EuRIC has raised concerns over the future of 527,000 tonnes of end-of-life tyres annually recycled into artificial turfs, warning on the risks of them being mismanaged and causing a huge environmental impact in the event of a proposal to ban infill materials.

EuRIC Mechanical Tyre Recycling Branch (EuRIC MTR) has expressed its support to the objectives of the European Commission, and it is confident that preventing a mismanagement of waste tyres will be at the focal point of their decision when taking into consideration the different options proposed by ECHA. Especially, knowing that there are no alternatives for an environmental sound management of the approximately 50,000,000 tyres units annually recycled and turned into infill material.

Yet, preserving a circular economy for tyre recycling into artificial turf infill can and must go hand in hand with reducing microplastics’ releases through standardized risk management measures such as those described in the European Standards Committee (CEN) technical report CEN/TR 17519.

“State of the art mechanical tyre recycling entirely supports the European Green Deal and the new Circular Economy Action Plan” stressed Poul Steen Rasmussen, President of EuRIC MTR Branch and Group CEO Genan. “The processing of ELT tyres into rubber is not only the most resource-efficient option but also the most climate-efficient one because for each tonne of ELT recycled as infill for artificial turf pitches- the climate is spared 700 kg of CO2 when compared with co-incineration” he added.

EuRIC entirely supports the efforts of the European Commission to minimise the release of microplastics in the environment.

“We are sure that cutting down microplastics releases into environment and the circular economy goals can coexist and achieve the objective of minimising the environmental impact of microplastics, which is why we encourage the European Commission to introduce risk management measures to avoid unintended releases of microplastics into the environment, one of the options assessed by ECHA.”

EuRIC has expressed their support towards the sustainable recycling system of end-of-life-tyres which they define as “well-functioning and mature circular value chain which directly contributes to the recovery of thousands of tonnes of critical raw materials such as rubber, and also steel and textile fibers, saving substantial amounts of energy and water, and preventing greenhouse gas emissions. Together with millions of euros saved in imports of raw materials and generating thousands of jobs”.

Wasting waste: the missing piece in India’s climate puzzle

We cannot blame anyone for using these, but the disposal of such healthcare paraphernalia raises concerns about our future. Medical waste is just one of the problems. What about the generation of waste in everyday life? What about the options available through using garbage as a resource to produce energy and drive forward the circular economy?

With rapid urbanization, India is facing a massive waste management challenge. Waste has become a key concern for the population residing in the major cities of India. Delhi topped the list of Indian cities with maximum waste generation running at 3.06 million tonnes, followed by Greater Mumbai at 2.49 million tonnes. Waste management has emerged as an issue of concern for researchers, environmentalists and activists alike, but has only a limited presence on the agenda when it comes to mitigating the threat of climate change. The reason for this can be firstly the obsession of countries with carbon emissions. With most of the debates only talking about reducing carbon emissions, developing countries like India have tended to jump on the bandwagon regarding its approach to combatting the threat of climate change. Efforts such as carbon trading and taxation are undertaken to calibrate the carbon emissions, a key contributor to climate change, at national and international levels in order to bring about a reduction.

Secondly, there is little concern about where the waste goes. The problem of how we deal with waste after it has left the immediate environment is not significant in the mind of the general public, as most of the dumping sites are on the outskirts of cities. Thirdly, the implementation of the laws has been far from satisfactory, despite continuous mandates from the Indian courts. Since the early 1980s, the Indian judiciary has been actively intervening to ameliorate the solid waste management situation in the country. In fact, till as late as 2000, the Burman Committee was appointed by the courts to take stock of the waste management situation in India, which led to the erstwhile legislation on the management of solid waste.

According to the World Bank report, nearly 70% of solid waste is dumped in landfills. One of the gases released from these landfills is methane. Methane, a greenhouse gas, has a global warming potential 28 times higher than carbon dioxide over one hundred years. With almost 15,000 MT of garbage remaining exposed in the country each day, waste has also become a significant reason for rising pollution levels.

Only 19% of the waste recovered is recycled and only 11% converted to energy. Waste management can be an alternative to the carbon tax, carbon trading and other measures designed to combat the threat of climate change and also a step towards implementing the circular economy.

Waste management has many aspects, including waste collection, disposal, dumping, and recycling having local solutions and allowing us to practice sustainable living. It can be a solution not just towards achieving environmental sustainability, but one that focuses on closing the inequalities.

A practice we can opt for while practicing sustainability and also cutting waste production is by using reusable cotton masks. Moreover, these masks, which are already in use and produced by women‘s self-help groups and NGOs, need to be made available at scale. Although the price may increase, just look at the value we will be adding to society in the form of women’s emancipation, participation, employment creation, and less environmental damage.

The World Bank report suggests that managing waste makes economic sense, as the cost of addressing the impact of accumulated trash will be much higher than the price of developing a simple and adequate waste management system. Another point worth mentioning is that unlike carbon emissions, whereby we hold only a few sectors responsible for pollution, waste management will require an equal effort by all the country’s citizens to segregate and recycle waste. Rather than differentiating between ‚who pays‘, we can all pay by playing our part.

Pinning all the blame on the government would be unfair. The government does what its citizens demand of it. In a survey published by the Association for Democratic Reforms, prior to the 2019 elections in India, jobs and better healthcare were the top priorities of voters. Issues such as climate change or related problems like air pollution, water pollution or waste management were not even in the top ten of voters’ priorities. The survey very well supports our dictum regarding the limited importance of the waste management agenda among India’s citizens. Although waste management can be taken as one of the contributing factors towards tackling climate change, due to the overall limitation of the climate policy agenda within the country, the importance of solid waste management is diminished. We can say that developing countries such as India are more fascinated by terms like GDP, growth and development, as they reflect better in terms of industrial development and energy security.

It is essential to understand the issue of waste management from the perspective of the climate change debate in the international arena because it is via the climate change debate that we can raise the issue of waste management in the broader policy environment. In a country as diverse as India, issues such as climate change and its other aspects require a bottom-up approach. We need to allocate the roles of urban local government more responsibly, as constitutionally a great deal of power is vested in them.

Perhaps there is a lesson to be learnt from our past: In 1994, when the Surat plague made the headlines, within a span of two years the local urban government managed to make Surat the cleanest city in India. Action and awareness at the forefront of these local governance institutions can make a great deal of difference to how we manage waste and how citizens can be made aware of the issue of climate change. The world tackled the situation of COVID not just with the guidance and aid of the government, but with an inclusive role of civil society NGOs that were able to make a difference in the fight against the virus. Similarly, there need to be a lot more initiatives, which need to come from corporate bodies that can provide the required funding to identify innovative and effective measures to address the issue of waste. One of these is to explore the fiscal viability of the waste-to-energy business model. The dual effect of waste-to-energy conversion would be an asset for the country. At the same time, India can play a significant role in emerging as the flag-bearer in the international realm and lead climate negotiations. The sustenance of humanity is dependent on addressing climate change. Waste remains an essential variable in this equation.

Wastewater treatment unit for 33,000-PE sewage treatment plant

Apart from the earthworks and the electrical installations, the German biogas plant manufacturer will supervise the construction of the new sludge thickener, the engine room for the cogeneration power plant and the digester with its gas storage roof. Henceforth, the sludge will undergo anaerobic digestion in the stainless-steel digester. The budget for the various modernisation measures on the premises total €4.14 million. The anaerobic stage will be ready to go live in October 2021.

Until now, the sewage treatment plant with a capacity of 33,000 PE (population equivalents) has applied aerobic wastewater treatment. The conversion to anaerobic sludge stabilisation will put the entire plant on track towards economic and ecological success. The new wastewater treatment solution is set to optimise operating processes and deliver significantly higher energy efficiency. Moreover, the new process is expected to reduce the sewage treatment plant‘s greenhouse gas emissions by 664 t/year. Within the framework of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the investment and development bank of Lower Saxony (NBank) rewards the carbon savings with a subsidy of €1 million.

Besides the ecological improvement, Weltec‘s anaerobic wastewater treatment will result in a significant cost reduction. For instance, the amount of sludge that accumulates every year will go down from 2,800 t to 1,800 t. Additionally, some 5 percent of the power consumption will be saved. The greatest savings potential, however, lies in the sludge gas: „With the 465,000 kWh of power that we will gain from the sewage gas every year, we will be able to cover 40 percent of our own power demand“, says Rainer Klenke. The technical manager of the wastewater operations of the municipality of Bückeburg calculates that the yearly power bill will drop by two thirds from €195,000 to €65,000.

Apart from the earthworks and the electrical installations, the German biogas plant manufacturer will supervise the construction of the new sludge thickener, the engine room for the cogeneration power plant and the digester with its gas storage roof. Henceforth, the sludge will undergo anaerobic digestion in the stainless-steel digester. Photo: Weltec Biopower

The expertise for this optimisation concept originates from biogas technology. Weltec Biopower will implement the digester as a stainless-steel tank in the tried-and-tested segmental design with a double-paddle mixer. The digester will have a height of 6.3 m, a diameter of about 19 m, and a capacity of 1,823 m3. The sewage gas will be stored in the flexible double-membrane roof with a volume of approx. 600 m3. This design stands out with much lower investment costs than a conventional digester and is therefore an optimum solution for smaller wastewater treatment plants. The new static sludge thickener, which is equipped with a submersible mixer and boasts a capacity of 342 m3, is also made of stainless steel. A 226-kW CHP unit will ensure efficient utilisation of the gas. Both the generated power and the heat will be used on the plant premises. Additionally, a gas boiler with an output of 170 kW will be installed in the engine room in order to ensure the heat supply of the digester even during maintenance work on the cogeneration power plant.

The municipal sewage treatment plant will thus experience an efficiency boost thanks to technological and process- related improvements. Apart from the anaerobic stage, a primary clarifier will be newly integrated in the process. In this way, primary sludge will be extracted from the wastewater, reducing the chemical oxygen demand (COD) by a third. The lower this value, the easier the water can be treated. This reduces the aeration period in the aeration tank and thus the energy costs. Thomas Sextro, Sales Manager at Weltec Biopower, explains: „Aerobically stabilised sludge contains a higher organics load and is more difficult to dewater. With the anaerobic process, the dewatered sludge has about 35 percent less volume, which saves sludge transportation and disposal costs.“

Such smart combinations of wastewater treatment, energy generation, and climate protection make existing sewa- ge treatment plants future-proof. The cost-efficient technologies and proven concepts from the field of biogas are suitable to counteract fluctuating energy prices and increasing sludge utilisation costs. In Bückeburg, for example, this enables the municipality to keep its wastewater and surface water drainage costs steady without burdening the citizens with extra fees.

Chemcycling of waste to hydrogen

Tim Reckmann, pixelio.de

The thermochemical processes that yield syngas (gasification, reforming, and pyrolysis) differ from incineration, in which waste is combusted to yield steam, carbon dioxide and ash.

Thermochemical processing of waste does produce some carbon dioxide, but the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) regards incineration of the biogenic fraction of waste as carbon dioxide neutral. Animal carcasses, scrap wood, waste vegetable oils and post-consumer wastepaper meet this definition. So, a large portion of the hydrogen produced can be regarded as renewable.

Organic materials ranging from municipal solid waste, biomass, sewage, manufacturing waste, plastic waste, hospital waste, agricultural and slaughterhouse waste are suitable feedstocks. Integrated pyrolysis, reforming and gasification have a significant environmental advantage over incineration: the oxygen-deficient atmosphere prevents the formation dioxins and furans which are highly toxic pollutants.

After removal of recyclables, the waste is shredded and fed into the first thermochemical processing reactor stage which is pyrolysis. The reactor operates at around 750 °C in the absence of air. The feedstock is thermally decomposed into gaseous, solid, and liquid components.

As the gases leave the pyrolysis reactor, steam is added to enable reforming and cracking reactions. These generate hydrogen and break heavy tars to short-chain hydrocarbons. Reforming generally takes place at around 920 °C.

As a third thermochemical processing stage, a partial oxidation reactor (POX) can be used. The POX reactor is fed with pure oxygen, rather than air, to avoid NOx generation. NOx causes materials selection challenges for the process equipment and contributes to air pollution. In the POX reactor a controlled amount of oxygen is added – less than the amount required for complete combustion. This ensures that carbon monoxide is produced in preference to carbon dioxide.

POX destroys tars and other large hydrocarbons due to the high temperature operation and the presence of a controlled amount of oxygen. Syngas leaving the exothermic POX reactor is at a very high temperature. This is another benefit of using POX in the overall process. Recovery of heat from the syngas with a radiant/convective heat exchanger or direct quench improves the overall process efficiency. The heat can be used to produce steam for power generation or process heating.

Typical syngas clean-up and conditioning processes include cyclones and filters for particulates removal followed by wet scrubbing to remove fine particulates, ammonia, and chlorides. Solid absorbents such as activated carbon may also be used for mercury and trace heavy metal removal.

Fischer-Tropsch conversion of the clean syngas to produce methanol or liquid fuels is a possible next step in the process. On the other hand, if hydrogen is the target, the syngas is fed to water gas shift (WGS) reactors which progressively increase the ratio of hydrogen to carbon monoxide in the syngas.

To maximise the hydrogen yield, the WGS reaction is carried out in two stages. In the first stage, a high-temperature shift (HTS) is performed at 300–450 °C. That is followed by a low-temperature shift (LTS) reaction operated at 180–230 °C. Steam injection can be used to optimise the reaction conditions.

Finally, pressure swing adsorption (PSA) is used to separate pure hydrogen from the syngas. CO and some hydrogen exit the PSA as ‘tail-gas’ which can be burned with some additional natural gas in a mixed-fuel burner system to create the energy that is required for the endothermic pyrolysis and reforming reactions.

The PSA processes generates a product stream containing hydrogen at 98 to 99.999% purity. At the lower end of that purity range, hydrogen can be used for industrial and chemical processes. At the higher end of that purity range, the hydrogen can be used in PEM fuel cells for cars, buses and trains.

Alternatively, Hydrogen can be fed to a Haber Bosch reactor to produce ammonia which is a feedstock for urea fertilizer production and an energy vector. Ammonia and hydrogen emit zero carbon dioxide when they are burned. So, they can help with decarbonisation, and the battle against climate change.

Chemcycling of waste to hydrogen

Tim Reckmann, pixelio.de

The thermochemical processes that yield syngas (gasification, reforming, and pyrolysis) differ from incineration, in which waste is combusted to yield steam, carbon dioxide and ash.

Thermochemical processing of waste does produce some carbon dioxide, but the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) regards incineration of the biogenic fraction of waste as carbon dioxide neutral. Animal carcasses, scrap wood, waste vegetable oils and post-consumer wastepaper meet this definition. So, a large portion of the hydrogen produced can be regarded as renewable.

Organic materials ranging from municipal solid waste, biomass, sewage, manufacturing waste, plastic waste, hospital waste, agricultural and slaughterhouse waste are suitable feedstocks. Integrated pyrolysis, reforming and gasification have a significant environmental advantage over incineration: the oxygen-deficient atmosphere prevents the formation dioxins and furans which are highly toxic pollutants.

After removal of recyclables, the waste is shredded and fed into the first thermochemical processing reactor stage which is pyrolysis. The reactor operates at around 750 °C in the absence of air. The feedstock is thermally decomposed into gaseous, solid, and liquid components.

As the gases leave the pyrolysis reactor, steam is added to enable reforming and cracking reactions. These generate hydrogen and break heavy tars to short-chain hydrocarbons. Reforming generally takes place at around 920 °C.

As a third thermochemical processing stage, a partial oxidation reactor (POX) can be used. The POX reactor is fed with pure oxygen, rather than air, to avoid NOx generation. NOx causes materials selection challenges for the process equipment and contributes to air pollution. In the POX reactor a controlled amount of oxygen is added – less than the amount required for complete combustion. This ensures that carbon monoxide is produced in preference to carbon dioxide.

POX destroys tars and other large hydrocarbons due to the high temperature operation and the presence of a controlled amount of oxygen. Syngas leaving the exothermic POX reactor is at a very high temperature. This is another benefit of using POX in the overall process. Recovery of heat from the syngas with a radiant/convective heat exchanger or direct quench improves the overall process efficiency. The heat can be used to produce steam for power generation or process heating.

Typical syngas clean-up and conditioning processes include cyclones and filters for particulates removal followed by wet scrubbing to remove fine particulates, ammonia, and chlorides. Solid absorbents such as activated carbon may also be used for mercury and trace heavy metal removal.

Fischer-Tropsch conversion of the clean syngas to produce methanol or liquid fuels is a possible next step in the process. On the other hand, if hydrogen is the target, the syngas is fed to water gas shift (WGS) reactors which progressively increase the ratio of hydrogen to carbon monoxide in the syngas.

To maximise the hydrogen yield, the WGS reaction is carried out in two stages. In the first stage, a high-temperature shift (HTS) is performed at 300–450 °C. That is followed by a low-temperature shift (LTS) reaction operated at 180–230 °C. Steam injection can be used to optimise the reaction conditions.

Finally, pressure swing adsorption (PSA) is used to separate pure hydrogen from the syngas. CO and some hydrogen exit the PSA as ‘tail-gas’ which can be burned with some additional natural gas in a mixed-fuel burner system to create the energy that is required for the endothermic pyrolysis and reforming reactions.

The PSA processes generates a product stream containing hydrogen at 98 to 99.999% purity. At the lower end of that purity range, hydrogen can be used for industrial and chemical processes. At the higher end of that purity range, the hydrogen can be used in PEM fuel cells for cars, buses and trains.

Alternatively, Hydrogen can be fed to a Haber Bosch reactor to produce ammonia which is a feedstock for urea fertilizer production and an energy vector. Ammonia and hydrogen emit zero carbon dioxide when they are burned. So, they can help with decarbonisation, and the battle against climate change.

APEAL announces 2025 vision for recycling

The 2025 Vision is set to be supported by action in four key areas, identified by the Association as critical in the drive to prevent steel packaging being diverted from recycling and wasted.

Alexis Van Maercke, secretary general of APEAL, said: “The four key areas of action will include a focus on optimising separate waste collection, establishing a scrap quality standard, the collection and sorting of steel closures, and designing for recyclability.
“As APEAL’s recycling report published in 2018 illustrates, separate collection is the best way of guaranteeing high-quality input into recycling operations. It was therefore encouraging to see this highlighted in the Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) 2.0 report adopted by the European Parliament last 9th February.

“Establishing a scrap quality standard is equally important. Crucially, to maintain quality in the steel for packaging scrap value chain, quality control must start when the material is at the sorting facility. This can only be achieved by establishing a quality standard for packaging steel scrap.”

Whilst an average of 82,5% of all steel packaging is currently recycled across Europe, the collection and sorting of steel closures in Europe is estimated to be below-average, with steel closures regularly put in the wrong waste bin (and often in the residual waste bin) by citizens.

Mr Van Maercke continued: “Improving the recycling rate of steel closures will make a significant contribution in the drive towards zero steel packaging to landfill. But there is currently a lack of clear sorting instructions and low awareness among citizens. At the same time ineffective sorting techniques in a number of facilities result in collected steel closures being lost and not recycled.”

APEAL also believes designing for recyclability will underpin the successful implementation of all these measures, helping to ensure that every product placed on the market, can be recycled as efficiently as possible.

“Ultimately, steel packaging is a valuable resource which cannot be wasted if we are to achieve the objectives of the European Green Deal. APEAL will continue to work with its colleagues, the European Commission, European Parliament, Member States and all stakeholders to realise a shared ambition of a truly circular economy.”

A new APEAL report, ‘Why Steel recycles forever – How to collect, sort & recycle steel for packaging’, designed to help stakeholders throughout the value chain work collaboratively to achieve the 2025 Vision, is set to be published in December 2021.

At the same time, APEAL will reveal a new recycling rate objective in line with the new EU calculation methodology. Applicable for data from 2020, this new methodology moves the calculation point for all members states and all packaging materials, to the entrance of the recycling operation. This means that no impurities can be included and only materials that are really recycled can be included in the measurement process.

Mr Van Maercke added: “Indeed, APEAL will release the 2019 steel recycling rate in May this year. But towards the end of the year we aim to be the first material to release our figures with the new methodology.”

APEAL announces 2025 vision for recycling

The 2025 Vision is set to be supported by action in four key areas, identified by the Association as critical in the drive to prevent steel packaging being diverted from recycling and wasted.

Alexis Van Maercke, secretary general of APEAL, said: “The four key areas of action will include a focus on optimising separate waste collection, establishing a scrap quality standard, the collection and sorting of steel closures, and designing for recyclability.
“As APEAL’s recycling report published in 2018 illustrates, separate collection is the best way of guaranteeing high-quality input into recycling operations. It was therefore encouraging to see this highlighted in the Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) 2.0 report adopted by the European Parliament last 9th February.

“Establishing a scrap quality standard is equally important. Crucially, to maintain quality in the steel for packaging scrap value chain, quality control must start when the material is at the sorting facility. This can only be achieved by establishing a quality standard for packaging steel scrap.”

Whilst an average of 82,5% of all steel packaging is currently recycled across Europe, the collection and sorting of steel closures in Europe is estimated to be below-average, with steel closures regularly put in the wrong waste bin (and often in the residual waste bin) by citizens.

Mr Van Maercke continued: “Improving the recycling rate of steel closures will make a significant contribution in the drive towards zero steel packaging to landfill. But there is currently a lack of clear sorting instructions and low awareness among citizens. At the same time ineffective sorting techniques in a number of facilities result in collected steel closures being lost and not recycled.”

APEAL also believes designing for recyclability will underpin the successful implementation of all these measures, helping to ensure that every product placed on the market, can be recycled as efficiently as possible.

“Ultimately, steel packaging is a valuable resource which cannot be wasted if we are to achieve the objectives of the European Green Deal. APEAL will continue to work with its colleagues, the European Commission, European Parliament, Member States and all stakeholders to realise a shared ambition of a truly circular economy.”

A new APEAL report, ‘Why Steel recycles forever – How to collect, sort & recycle steel for packaging’, designed to help stakeholders throughout the value chain work collaboratively to achieve the 2025 Vision, is set to be published in December 2021.

At the same time, APEAL will reveal a new recycling rate objective in line with the new EU calculation methodology. Applicable for data from 2020, this new methodology moves the calculation point for all members states and all packaging materials, to the entrance of the recycling operation. This means that no impurities can be included and only materials that are really recycled can be included in the measurement process.

Mr Van Maercke added: “Indeed, APEAL will release the 2019 steel recycling rate in May this year. But towards the end of the year we aim to be the first material to release our figures with the new methodology.”

APEAL announces 2025 vision for recycling

The 2025 Vision is set to be supported by action in four key areas, identified by the Association as critical in the drive to prevent steel packaging being diverted from recycling and wasted.

Alexis Van Maercke, secretary general of APEAL, said: “The four key areas of action will include a focus on optimising separate waste collection, establishing a scrap quality standard, the collection and sorting of steel closures, and designing for recyclability.
“As APEAL’s recycling report published in 2018 illustrates, separate collection is the best way of guaranteeing high-quality input into recycling operations. It was therefore encouraging to see this highlighted in the Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) 2.0 report adopted by the European Parliament last 9th February.

“Establishing a scrap quality standard is equally important. Crucially, to maintain quality in the steel for packaging scrap value chain, quality control must start when the material is at the sorting facility. This can only be achieved by establishing a quality standard for packaging steel scrap.”

Whilst an average of 82,5% of all steel packaging is currently recycled across Europe, the collection and sorting of steel closures in Europe is estimated to be below-average, with steel closures regularly put in the wrong waste bin (and often in the residual waste bin) by citizens.

Mr Van Maercke continued: “Improving the recycling rate of steel closures will make a significant contribution in the drive towards zero steel packaging to landfill. But there is currently a lack of clear sorting instructions and low awareness among citizens. At the same time ineffective sorting techniques in a number of facilities result in collected steel closures being lost and not recycled.”

APEAL also believes designing for recyclability will underpin the successful implementation of all these measures, helping to ensure that every product placed on the market, can be recycled as efficiently as possible.

“Ultimately, steel packaging is a valuable resource which cannot be wasted if we are to achieve the objectives of the European Green Deal. APEAL will continue to work with its colleagues, the European Commission, European Parliament, Member States and all stakeholders to realise a shared ambition of a truly circular economy.”

A new APEAL report, ‘Why Steel recycles forever – How to collect, sort & recycle steel for packaging’, designed to help stakeholders throughout the value chain work collaboratively to achieve the 2025 Vision, is set to be published in December 2021.

At the same time, APEAL will reveal a new recycling rate objective in line with the new EU calculation methodology. Applicable for data from 2020, this new methodology moves the calculation point for all members states and all packaging materials, to the entrance of the recycling operation. This means that no impurities can be included and only materials that are really recycled can be included in the measurement process.

Mr Van Maercke added: “Indeed, APEAL will release the 2019 steel recycling rate in May this year. But towards the end of the year we aim to be the first material to release our figures with the new methodology.”

OKAY transforms MRF for HW Martin

The multi-material plant now recovers HDPE and PET automatically and has streamlined the operation for HW Martin at their site in Alfreton.

By integrating two 5th generation Tomra 2800mm units into the plant, the accuracy and efficiency of plastics sorting within the MRF has proven an immediate return of investment. The design brief was to increase the recovery and purity rates of HDPE and PET from the commingled plant with the flexible option to change over to additionally recover PP.

OKAY Engineering visited site and assessed what was required to deliver the productivity improvements requested by the customer.  With over 20 upgrades at different MRFs in the last two 24 months, OKAY had the extensive experience needed to ensure the design fits, the plant works from start-up and the installation causes no major disruption to the customer’s operation.

In the final supply:

  • Two Tomra NIR Optical sorters were identified due to their high accuracy and efficiency, as well as their instantaneous adjustment of targeting materials.
  • OKAY Engineering Ltd configured the layout to fit into the client’s available space.
  • OKAY Engineering Ltd supplied all supporting structural steelwork and conveyors to transfer the material.

In addition to the building constraints, the HW Martin also asked to be able to maintain plant operation throughout the install process.

  • OKAY worked with the customer’s delivery team to create a programme based on weekend work that allowed the plant to run weekdays without interruption.
  • This install ran over three consecutive weekends.
  • In the final weekend, OKAY cut into the main plant to link in the new equipment
  • Plant production re-started on the Monday morning at full uptime and with the optical sorters optimised to deliver the efficiency upgrade immediately.

Dec Nortcliffe from HW Martin confirmed that the new system exceeded their expectations “The OKAY team did a fantastic job both with the kit and the install. The Alfreton Recycling Centre upgrade demonstrates our commitment to reinvest profits in the continued expansion of the business. This investment has enabled us to increase productivity and expand our recycling service to even more Local Authority customers. We are really pleased with the upgrade and with choosing OKAY.”