Because of their low weight and their diverse utilization possibilities plastic products make a significant contribution to environmental protection and resource conservation.
Less and less plastic is needed to achieve the same or more demanding targets. Thus, for example packaging is about 28 per cent lighter than 10 years ago.
Technical plastic parts for the automotive industry contribute to the reduction of fuel consumption. 100 kg plastics replace an estimated 200-300 kg of conventional materials - this corresponds to a reduction in fuel consumption of 750 liters to 150,000 km.
The plastics processing industry is committed to the principle of product responsibility. After that products must be designed so that waste can be avoided or reduced already in production and the environmentally sound recovery after use of the product is ensured. Plastics can be recycled in three different ways:
- Mechanical recycling
Mechanical recycling means that used plastics are mechanically processed. Their chemical structure remains unchanged, but the old parts are shredded, purified and separated by different types of plastic. Material recycling is always useful when used plastics can be collected correctly sorted. The newly acquired material (recycled material) can be used as raw material for various applications and replaces newly produced granules.
- Feedstock recycling
In the feedstock recycling polymer chains are split by heat. This results monomers or oils and gases, which can be used for the production of new plastics, but also for other purposes. Feedstock recycling is suitable for both mixed and for dirty plastic fractions.
- Energy recovery
In the energy recovery of plastics, the energy contained in these materials is recovered by incineration. At the same time, the resulting energy is used for the production of electricity, steam or process heat. Energy recovery is also recommended for mixed or contaminated plastic fractions.
The plastics converting industry is committed to a recycling mix of these options. This is the only way to achieve a maximum eco-efficiency, i. e. the optimum conservation of resources to adequate macroeconomic costs.
For further information on plastics recycling see:
GKV-Publications on Plastics and Circular Economy