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The new green road: the Circular economy of the recycled plastic

Updated: Jul 7, 2020

“The beauty of a circle is that it has no beginning and no end. If a system is able to regenerate, then it can ensure a fundamental rule for our existence: the following generation could have at least the same standard of living of the previous one.”– as the French economist Jean-Paul Fitoussi states.

Since many years Soluzioni Plastiche s.r.l. is involved in the activity of intermediation between those who produce or collect plastic waste and those who rework them to reintroduce in the production cycle. With a look to the ideal of the closed-loop recycling of plastic, our company plays its part to find in the European market post-consumer plastic waste to collect, recycle and realize to create new products, and it has identified in the reduction of mixed plastic waste, known as plastmix, one of the most urgent challenges of the sustainability of the planet.

Clearly the topic is very complex because the closed-loop cycle of plastic require that consumers, retailers, recyclers and producers cooperate to recover precious materials from our waste stream and works on them to realize new products, which requires a complete transformation of mentality, habits and procedures.

There is growing evidence that the resources of our planet are in exhaustion and it’s necessary to activate an economic system based on the efficiency of consumptions, promoting the concept of “renewable materials”, which means beginning to think that also the material, like the energy, can be renewed, and even though it is discarded, it can take shape in a new life in different products.

The Circular economy is the answer to the lack of the resources of the planet. According to the definition of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation*, circular economy is “a generic term to define an economy designed to regenerate itself”. In a Circular economy the waste streams are of two kinds: those organics, capable of being reintegrated of the biosphere, and those technical, intended to be revalued without getting inside the biosphere. To sum up it is a new economic model which aims to the reduction of the waste of resources.

If the two models in comparison are the Linear and the Circular one, it is clear that the Linear economic model has failed compared to two aspects: environmental – the consumption of virgin resources over the environmental impact in terms of waste and emissions – and economic – lots of materials that we are going to throw have not already exhausted their economic potential.

*In January 2012 it has been published a report named “Towards the circular economy: economic and business reasons for a speed up transition”. The report ordered by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation of Chicago and developed by McKinsey & Company has been the first one of its kind to consider the economic and business opportunities for the transition towards a circular model. Using case studies of the product and analysis on the whole economy, the relationship describes the capability to produce significant benefits in the entire European Union.

What is the Circular Economy and what it is based on ?

  • Redesign and eco-design: a product just from its beginning has to be built to last and so we have to take charge of the end of its life, providing it with some characteristics that allow, if it’s necessary, the disassembly and the renovation.

  • Efficient production: through machinery and innovative processes the material used to produce every single product is reduced in order to reduce also the waste.

  • Awareness of the consumption: promoting the awareness of the consumer (illustrate the impacts of his consumption through transparent labels). The consumer has to be stimulated to use those products that minimize the consumptions of virgin materials, which are more easier to recycle once they have achieved the end of its life.

  • Waste collection/ Recycle: stimulate the market of the secondary raw materials or the materials made up of manufacturing scarps or from materials generated by recovery.

In the principles expressed by the MacArthur Foundation there is also talk about:

  • Renewable energy: relying on energies produced from renewable sources encouraging the rapid phasing-out of the energetic model based on the fossils.

  • Eco-system based approach: thinking in a holistic way, having attention within the entire system and considering the relationships cause and effect between the different components.

  • Recovery of the materials: promoting the substitution of the virgin materials with secondary raw materials coming from the supply-chain of recovery that conserve their quality.

Radical change or gradual transition?

At this point it is questionable if the Circular economy is something new or a transition, and in response we can say that the industrial component has certainly to face relevant news both in economic and environmental traits, whereas the strategy of waste reduction is already well-established and we notice that the attention of the political and economic choices is moving towards the end of the production chain (waste and scrap) to its own beginning (planning and redesign).

But the fact remains that the circular economy as a whole should be conceived like a new “diet” , in the original meaning of the Greek term “diaita”, which means a way of living aimed to health. The circular economy has not to be though as a passing trend of our times, just like the diet can’t be an extraordinary weight-loss therapy to work, rather an order to observe with diligence to have a constant care of our own life. In the same way the Circular economy has to be seen as an impulse useful to the radical transformation of the economic system towards a sustainable development. A new way of living that will change the society in its different aggregative forms and it will be impossible to go back.

We realize that the guiding principles of the Circular economy can seem a simple theoretical exercise of those who nurtures the hope of building a “better world” but impossible to realize with concrete projects. However this legitimate doubt is fortunately denied by reality. There are in fact thousands of cases which prove how not only the Start Up and Research Centers are obtaining industrialized results of Circular Economy projects, but also Companies of different merchandising sectors, supported by research, are turning their product waste in new products, obtaining in this way important economic benefits and environmental as well.

The business realities that promote the Circular economy

Between the several possible examples of Manufacturing Firms that apply “good practices of Circular economy” to their own business sector , let’s linger on the interesting SABIC case, a Saudi Society which is a worldwide leader in the field of petrochemical and chemical products, industrial polymers, fertilizers and metals. This company is the biggest public enterprise of the Middle Est and of Saudi Arabia and it produces on a global scale in the Americas, in Europe, in the Middle Est and in the Asia-Pacific area realizing chemical products, raw materials and plastics of high performance, countryside-nourishing and metals.

But its most distinguishing characteristic is the strong commitment in the realization of a more sustainable world through the collaboration with a wide range of companies which are its clients and that SABIC supports in the individuation and development of strategies aimed to the achieving of business targets of environmental sustainability.

In occasion of the recent Davos’ Worlds Economic Forum in Switzerland, SABIC has illustrated the potentials of its innovative TRUCIRCLE to the political leaders and the economical worldwide operators with the purpose of closing the recycling circle of plastic.

By incorporating four highly innovative but distinct technologies, TRUCICLE offers a complete wallet of solutions which includes:

  1. Circular polymers SABIC certified, flagship of the industry, realized with the chemical recycling of plastic mixed waste (plast mix).

  2. Renewable polymers organic-based SABIC certified

  3. Recycled mechanical polymers

  4. Solutions of materials projected for the recycling

The absolute innovation of the circular polymers certified by SABIC aims to create a new chain of value, in which SABIC, its suppliers on the peak and its principle clients down to the valley collaborate to bring back the mixed plastic waste to the original polymer for the applications of packaging, allowing in this way the circular re-use of the natural resources of the planet. In the last 12 months the clients of SABIC and the brand owners like Uniliver and Tupperware Brands were the pioneers of TRUCICLE technology by introducing to the market a set of consumer products commercially valuable realized internally with recycled mixed plastic waste.

Especially interesting for us from Soluzioni Plastiche srl are the circular polymers SABIC certified, produced using a raw material made of pyrolysis oil created by the recycling of

low-quality mixed plastic waste, otherwise destined to incineration or landfill. The resulting circular certified polymers have the same quality of the virgin polymers with excellent mechanical, processing and purity properties. These products are used in the development of consumer packaging pioneering of high-quality for food, beverages, products for the personal care and of the house from different clients leader of the SABIC firm.

Our recycling enterprise, like other business realities, completely supports the new deal of the Circular Economy, claiming a philosophy that respects the environmental sustainability of the planet.

“Living without waste” is our future goal, recycling our waste without producing materials that already exist.

Sources: - A. Fornasiero del 20/02/2019 e del 27/02/2019

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