Schela Plast, recently acquired by converter Robinson, is working on a project to improve recycling technology and pave the way for more plastics to be able to retain its value, rather than being downcycled. The company is working with the Danish Technological Institute.

Project manager, Sofie Kastbjerg, said: “Although in Denmark we are good at collecting plastics packaging from households, only a small part of the plastics is turned back into products of the same quality. The Et MUDP project, supported by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, must now pave the way for more plastics recycling to be made circular.

“Too much plastics waste is downcycled into products of lower quality than the original, and this will not work if we are to achieve the ambition of a circular economy for household plastics. Therefore, we must become good at maintaining the original quality of the plastics when it is reprocessed for subsequent recycling.”

In the project, the Danish Technological Institute has assembled a consortium with Aage Vestergaard Larsen, Schela Plast, and Nopa Nordic, the three important sections in the plastic supply chain: waste collection, the packaging manufacturer and packaging end-user.

Household plastics are a very mixed waste fraction with products that have very different quality standards and content that may have penetrated the plastics, for example, perfumes from fabric softener. This makes it difficult to recycle the plastics into certain packaging, for example, for hypoallergenic detergent and cosmetic products.

In this project, the partners want to optimise the current reprocessing technology so that it becomes possible to reduce the number of undesirable substances in the waste stream. This will pave the way for an upcycling of the mixed plastics to create new applications, for example, from project participant Nopa Nordic, which requires recycled packaging for its cleaning and care products.

Nikolai Haulrik, development manager at Nopa Nordic, added: “We place great emphasis on the sustainability of our products and recycled packaging is a cornerstone of this. In order to continue to deliver on this, we need a new source of recycled plastics that is safe to use for cosmetic and cleaning products.”

During the project, Aage Vestergaard Larsen’s reprocessing technology is being developed to clean up and melt household collected PE into high-quality plastics that meet product-specific requirements.

“It is a prerequisite that we maintain a clean stream of high quality materials if we are to ensure that the plastics is recycled again and again. With the further development of our new reprocessing line for household collected plastics, we expect we can deliver materials from household collected plastics that are even higher quality than before,” admitted Franz Cuculiza, chief executive at Aage Vestergaard Larsen.

Schela Plast chief executive Morten Jeppesen

Using the reprocessed plastics, new packaging from Schela Plast will be produced for Nopa Nordic products.

“Schela Plast already has extensive experience in producing materials from household plastics,” said Schela Plast chief executive Morten Jeppesen. “We expect that 35 per cent of our packaging this year and 50 per cent next year will be made from recycled plastics. Today, unfortunately, it is necessary to import recycled plastics. We, therefore, look forward to a circular and sustainable supply opportunity locally in Denmark.”

The project runs until 2023 and is supported by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Technology Development and Demonstration Programme (MUDP).