Axion Consulting, a UK-based waste processing consultancy, says it is now technically feasible and economically viable to begin the large-scale collection of low grade plastic films for conversion into fuels and other recycled products.
Economic factors, and handling and sorting challenges, has resulted in plastic film recycling still being in the early stages of development. Policy alternatives have moved toward an outright ban of single-use plastic bags and imposing charges on consumers, according to Axion.
The consultants say the lightweight and two-dimensional plastics can easily get mixed into other recycling streams, such as paper, causing contamination or become trapped in recycling machinery.
However, a new generation of machinery uses air flow to help detect and remove around 95 per cent of films from co-mingled curbside waste collections. The process is likely to be more economical and efficient than current machine-based and hand-picking operations.
Axion also suggests that it is now economically viable to convert low grade plastics into fuel. Three chemical engineering processes, fast pyrolysis, depolymerisation, and gasification with biological treatment provided significant financial returns over a 10-year period.