Challenging plastic waste simply by increasing the recycling rate is a chimera: as of today, virgin plastic is cheaper than recycled plastic, hence plastic makers have no economic incentive to stop producing virgin plastic. Therefore, recycled plastic must be made more competitive.
The balance between treated volume and the investments to process it is an issue in the recycling industry. Collectivities provide large volumes of plastic waste which allows an investment in a fully automatized line to be profitable while industries are producing more diffuse waste flows across the territory. Another point is the need to separate the different kind of plastics (polymers) before recycling because they don’t melt at the same temperature. Most of SMBs identify plastics manually because the alternatives are too expensive to use. This leads to a low recycling rate, around 80%, because in case of doubt the waste is discarded to respect the purity standards. Yet, discarding is costly since sorting centers must pay a tax for landfill, impacting their competitiveness. Consequently, we are developing a polymer-identification tool, which resembles a supermarket’s scan, that will be used by people sorting plastics by hand.