The market for recycled plastics is broken – this is the central finding of the latest POLYPROBLEM topic report. “Treasure Hunt” is the second POLYRPOBLEM topic report of this year. This time, the report was conducted in cooperation with cirplus. Its goal is to not only summarize the situation regarding the recycling of plastics, but also to analyze the reasons that currently cause the plastics cycle to fail and to provide possible solutions for politics and industry.
Annually, nearly 400 million tons of plastic are currently produced worldwide. However, less than ten percent consist of recycled material. Hence, it is still a long way to a properly functioning recycling industry. At first glance, the situation appears paradox: recycling companies complain about a lack of sales opportunities. At the same time, product manufacturers and plastics processors complain about a shortage of recyclates sufficient in quantity and quality. Supply and demand do not meet. In discussion with leading experts from business and science, this POLYPROBLEM topic report gets to the bottom of the demanding challenge.
One of many problems with recycled plastics is, in fact, the price. Newly produced plastic (aka virgin plastic) is 20 to 30 percent cheaper than its recycled counterpart of comparable quality. This may surprise many consumers, however, is the bitter reality. While recyclers complain about the price disadvantage of recycled materials compared to virgin material as well as about the lack of economies of scale, the applied industry demands an innovation boost in order to increase the quality and quantity of high-end recycled plastics.
Another key to a significantly higher percentage of recycled materials in plastics production would be improved standards and norms that provide processors and producers with reliable information on material properties. Prof. Dr.-Ing. Hans Josef Endres and Dr. Madina Shamsuyeva from the Leibniz University of Hanover specifically point this out in the available POLYPROBLEM topic report.