The key role of waste management industry for a sustainable circular economy

The history of waste is a long journey of awareness, transformation and evolution. The waste management industry has gone from being a scrap manager to a producer of sustainable secondary raw materials. A transformation from which a new development model was born: the circular economy.
It is only through research and development, and the investments made by companies with the right legislative framework and incentives, that high levels of expertise and efficiency have been achieved. Collection and sorting are fundamental steps in the process that cannot be underestimated and simply harmonised.

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Energy-efficient recycling of waste diapers

Alkyl Recycling is developing a unique, sustainable, and energy-efficient recycling process for absorbent hygiene products like baby diapers. A single baby uses between 6-10 diapers daily. This amounts to an estimated 450 billion diapers used annually worldwide. However, a majority of these waste diapers end up in landfills or incineration plants. Both of these approaches are not environmentally friendly. Alkyl Recycling is applying mild chemistry to recycle and recover diaper material for reuse with the aim of closing the loop of this vital but stubborn commodity.

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Upwash, a decontamination technology for mixed plastic wastes

TNO supported by Brightsite, has developed a type of hydrothermal processing, named UpWash, to upgrade difficult plastic mixture wastes. The most important stream of the UpWash process is a clean and densified form of polyolefin mix (PE+PP) virtually free of other plastics, inerts and biogenic contaminants, which facilitates the chemical or mechanical recycling processing.

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Machine learning assisted leak-free circular plastic packaging design from post-consumer waste

Mechanical sorting is widely applied in the current Dutch waste management scheme, which sorts all of the polyolefin flexible packaging (different types of polyethylene, polypropylene) into the same stream, i.e. DKR 310, with different composition of each batch. Such inconsistency of feedstock composition brings remarkable hurdle to recycle this waste stream particularly on the sealing process design of the circular packaging from the stream. Therefore, Brightlands Materials Center is developing a prediction scheme for sealing performance of flexible packaging with recycled content based on the composition of the waste.

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Dilemmas in sustainable packaging

Plastic Packaging is in the focus of attention. New legislation, extended producer responsibility programs as well as new voluntary commitments are being published every month. At the same time there is an overload of information and new initiatives that is daunting for a lot of producers, politicians and scientists. On top of that consumers get a lot of conflicting messages – emotion is defining the public opinion and the debate is lacking facts and figures. This leads to suboptimal solutions, unintended consequences and dilemmas in sustainable packaging.

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