Recycling of polypropylene - Together for a sustainable future

What to do with an empty PET (polyethylene terephthalate) beverage bottle?  Put it in the deposit machine so that it can be recycled and the material reused! This has been an established process for all of us for years. Even if the plastic PET is not used exclusively in the food sector, there is a closed cycle for the food-safe part of the material by collecting and recycling the bottles in a separate system.

Such a closed cycle does not exist for polypropylene (PP) food packaging at the moment.

The challenge: polypropylene is not used exclusively for the food sector but, thanks to its diverse material properties, is also used in many other areas, such as in containers for cleaning products. PP articles are still disposed of via the "yellow bag", in which plastics of various types and origins come together. This mixing requires further sorting. Conventional sorting systems reach their limits here, as they are often unable to differentiate between packaging for food and packaging for other purposes, which is crucial for ensuring the required purity of the material streams.

The solution: Many complex systems need to work together. Legal framework conditions must be created or adapted, social processes must be introduced and accepted and established by consumers. However, technical processes also need to be further tested and implemented, for example to improve sorting processes and, last but not least, the composition of plastic items need to be optimised for recycling.

At SPIES, we have been focusing on the production of items made from mono-material for years, thus fulfilling the basic requirement for the recyclability of our products.

In addition to this established process, we work daily on the further development and perfection of our articles and their recyclability. We call this "Design for Sustainability".  Our aim is to implement a functioning circular economy for other types of plastic such as PP, following the example of PET. To this end, we are in close dialogue with dual systems, which take care of collection and sorting, as well as with recycling companies, which process the material for reuse. Through innovation and technological progress, such as the development of a digital watermark for better sortability, we are striving to create sustainable solutions for the use of this important and valuable material.

However, a functioning circular economy requires more than what we can achieve alone as a manufacturer of plastic packaging. It is therefore important to us, especially on World Recycling Day, to emphasise the importance of joint efforts for a more sustainable future.

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