Experts claim the need to promote a secondary market for recycled plastic in Spain

10, February, 2021

Photo: Luis Morales, CIDEC communication manager. The report was recently presented 'r-PET: the best solution to guarantee the circularity of packaging', prepared by the Center for Innovation and Development for the Circular Economy (CIDEC). The report shows that there is a mismatch between supply and demand in the recycled plastic (r-PET) food market in Spain

Third sector entities such as Zero Discharges y Clean Landscape, technology centers such as Circe Foundation (Center for Research on Energy Resources and Consumption), Aimplas (Technological Institute of Plastic), Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (Icta-UAB), Aina, research centers such as Idaea-CSIC (Institute for Environmental Diagnosis and Water Studies) and companies such as AFI (International Financial Analysts.

The draft of the Law on Waste and Contaminated Soils that the Spanish Government will approve in the coming months states that, by 2025, 25% (and by 2030, 30%) of the containers must contain recycled plastic, which is not possible with r-PET currently available in Spain. To comply with European requirements in the food sector, 54 kt of this material would be necessary, while the installed production capacity in the current Spanish market does not exceed 35 kt.

For this reason, it is necessary to promote a competitive secondary market for recycled plastic in Spain. “This study highlights the numerous advantages of promoting a secondary market for r-PET in Spain, both due to its lower environmental impacts and the opportunity to create jobs linked to recycling processes and the necessary investments to renew the industrial capacity of our country, in a post-pandemic context that makes it more essential than ever ”, he commented Luis Morales, CIDEC communication manager during the presentation of the report in an online event moderated by Deborah Garcia.

After the intervention by Luis Morales, the environmental and social context of plastic containers was discussed, with the participation of Xavier Miranda, responsible for the Zero Waste Waste area, and Maria Cabrera, responsible for communication in Clean Landscape.

They then talked about the circularity of materials and processes Aitana Saenz de Guinoa, project manager at Fundación Circe; Joan Riveradevall, from the Icta-UAB (Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals of the Autonomous University of Barcelona), and Eva Verdejo, responsible for the Recycling and Environment business line at Aimplas.

Afterwards, the keys to creating an rPET market in Spain were discussed, with the intervention of Carlos Enguix, head of the Packaging Technologies department at Ainia, and Ana Domínguez, applied economics consultant at AFI.

Photo: Juan Manuel Valverde, CIDEC development manager.

“Once its problems are understood, plastic is a useful and valuable material, also once used, because it can have many lifetimes. The great challenge is that we all understand that no plastic should be intended for single use ", he concluded Juan Manuel Valverde responsible for development of CIDEC.

R-PET, the most suitable material

After analyzing the origin of the materials, their recyclability and their environmental impact in terms of carbon footprint, the report concludes that r-PET is the best material from an environmental perspective, as it is the one that emits the least greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. To do this, a comparative analysis is made of a 33cl virgin plastic water container (which emits 43,5 grams of CO2), a glass bottle (287,7 grams), a carton (61,8 grams), a aluminum can (107,6 gr) and r-PET (9,9 gr).

Recognizing the properties of this material, the report also quantifies its carbon footprint and eco-efficiency impact depending on whether its acquisition is made in a national or foreign market (Germany, Italy, France and the USA). The analysis reveals that the national r-PET has a lower carbon footprint associated with its life cycle compared to imported products (between 0.10 and 0.51 kg of CO2 eq.). As well as that its environmental impacts associated with production and transport are the most eco-efficient of all the markets studied (for the price range below € 900 / ton, the carbon footprint is 710 Kg of CO2 / ton).

The report also proposes concrete measures to improve the efficiency of the collection and recycling processes in the Spanish market.

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