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TECHNIFYING TREATMENT PLANTS TO IMPROVE THE CLASSIFICATION OF PLASTIC CONTAINERS

by | Mar 14, 2022 | Plastics recycling | 0 comments

The United Nations has just approved the first international agreement against plastic IN which 175 countries commit to drawing up plans to reduce the impact of plastic throughout its life cycle. A historic and binding resolution to end the pollution of an industry that has multiplied its waste in recent decades, generating 400 million tons annually. This resolution is the most important global commitment since the Paris Agreement and a fundamental step on the road to a more sustainable and circular industry.

 

REDUCING PLASTIC CONSUMPTION IN PORTUGAL

Our neighbor Portugal recycles less than other European countries, around 38% of its total municipal waste, a percentage lower than the European average (46%). This lower rate is explained, in part, by the adoption in Portugal of other measures that seek to reduce the consumption of plastic. At the end of 2019, for example, the Portuguese began to receive up to five cents for each plastic container returned. A project that has been a success, recycling more than 12 million bottles in 2020, about 350 tons of PET plastic, used for the manufacture of new bottles.

Portugal, however, does not neglect the selective collection of waste. As in Spain, the yellow container is the symbol of the recycling of domestic plastic containers. This container is the first step of an industrial process of collection, sorting and recycling to obtain raw material for the manufacture of new products that give a second life to waste. Sorting plants play a fundamental role in this process, such as one in which PICVISA has installed three ECOPACK machines, in the North of Portugal, near Porto.

 

RECOVERY OF RECYCLABLE MATERIALS

The sorting plant in Portugal will treat waste from separate collection and allow the recovery of recyclable materials. PICVISA’s machinery will allow a high effectiveness of recycling and meet the objectives and the community strategy of prevention, recycling and recovery of waste as a resource. Thus, PICVISA has installed three optical separators of the ECOPACK range in the light packaging plant and another two of the same range in the Urban Solid Waste plant, which are already in full operation.

ECOPACK optical separators, such as those previously installed by PICVISA in a plant in the Lisbon metropolitan area, allow various types of materials to be automatically classified and separated by composition, colour and shape. Capable of processing more than five tons per hour of packaging with a yield of up to 95%, they automatically classify PET, HDPE, BRICK, mixed plastics, paper/cardboard and plastic films. EPS, PET with oils, glass, wood, PE film and rigid plastics are recovered manually.

ECOPACK models are designed to be able to work on acceleration tapes from 1000 mm to 3000 mm with different separation options (Double Bar or MultiTrack).

 

HIGH RECYCLING EFFECTIVENESS

Automated plants achieve a recycling effectiveness of 90%, a percentage that can still be improved. From there, plastic waste is routed to authorized recyclers. The plastics that are best recycled are HDPE and PET type. The rest, however, do not have much value and are the worst ranked. Basically, these are multilayer plastics, film-type plastics, rigid mixing (food trays), PS (yogurt or rice cups) or opaque or intensely colored PET (usually water and milk bottles).

 

IN SPAIN, MORE RECYCLED PLASTIC THAN THROWN INTO THE LANDFILL

The reality of recycling in Spain is very different from in Portugal. Our country has doubled the recycling figures of domestic plastic containers, reaching, according to the annual report of Cicloplast, the entity that groups plastic producers and processors, 616,282 tons in 2020. Or what is the same, that each Spaniard recycled just over 13 kilos of plastic containers of the almost 20 kilos it generated. In this way, in Spain more plastic is already recycled than goes to landfill.

These figures place Spain in the top positions in Europe in recycling of domestic plastic packaging, only surpassed by the Czech Republic. Other countries, such as Switzerland and the United Kingdom, reputed to be more recyclers, however, allocate a good part of this waste to energy recovery. Thus, Spain already exceeded in 2019 the European packaging recycling target for 2020 (50%), a percentage that, if we add all plastic packaging (industrial, commercial and domestic), is 51.5%.

In this sense, artificial intelligence systems and robotics, such as those developed by PICVISA, are constantly advancing to improve the ability to select waste such as plastic packaging. With the increased technification of the treatment plants provided by PICVISA technology, two major objectives are achieved. On the one hand, maximize the recovery of materials present in the residual flows. And, on the other, to ensure an optimal quality of the recovered materials that allows their subsequent transformation into secondary raw materials and, consequently, valorizes them.

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