RecyClass, the value chain platform established by Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE) to advance the recyclability of plastic packaging, has just added another tool to the rapidly expanding set of protocols, guidelines, tests and audit schemes developed to ‘enhance and evaluate the recyclability of plastic packaging through a technical perspective’.
The new ‘Sorting Evaluation Protocol for Plastic Packaging’ is a Standard Practice that is geared at evaluating the behaviour of a plastic product during the sorting process in Europe. It is designed to enable companies to analyse the sortability of their packaging, within the scope of the design for recycling principles. Compliance to a RecyClass Protocol, however, is no substitute - ever - for an official assessment and may not be used as a marketing tool, RecyClass stresses.
Sortability plays a crucial role in establishing the recyclability of a product. According to the definition of recyclability formulated by APR and PRE, a plastic product can be considered recyclable if it is collected, recycled in a commercially available process, used in the manufacture of new products - but also if it can be sorted into an aggregated stream.
“The ‘Sorting Protocol for Plastic Packaging’ complements the Recyclability Evaluation Protocols”, Martine Brandsma, Director of NTCP National Test Centre Circular Plastics, an independent test and development centre. “Sharing and implementing best practices and standards in the collection and sorting as well as harmonising them across Europe must follow now if we are to move the needle on design for recycling further.”
Working in close collaboration with the NTCP and Suez circpack, RecyClass has now developed a standardised protocol that evaluates at an industrial scale the sorting behaviour of plastic packaging for the following recycling streams: PE flexibles, PP flexibles, PET bottles, PET trays, PP rigids, HDPE rigids, PS rigids.
It aims to identify any design issues that may prevent the detectability of a specific product during the sorting product, causing it to end up in a different stream. Such issues could include, for example, large labels or sleeves made from a different polymer than that which was used for the main body.
The new protocol encompasses all the steps involved in the collection, transportation, and sorting process, starting with the packaging waste compaction and ending with the Near-Infrared detection step - a comprehensive approach that is essential for a proper evaluation of a packaging’s sorting behaviour.
The Sorting Protocol provides a testing methodology with detailed procedures and sampling methods. To assess the feasibility and operational aspects of the protocol trials were carried out at Suez sorting lines and NTCP Test Centre.
RecyClass is now looking forward to collaborating with other sorting centres from across Europe. Any interested organisation can apply to become an accredited sorting facility.