Upcycling the “Horrible Hybrids”

Plastic packaging made of various materials that are impossible to recycle is known as the “Horrible Hybrids”, and they are causing a headache for recyclers around the world.
Have you ever bought your tea, granola, or baby food packed in a pouch bag? The majority of pouches on the market are made from a multi-layered material composed of a mix of plastics, paper, and aluminium foil, which make it nearly impossible to extract the different ingredients for recycling. Zippers and resealable parts of the bag are an additional problem in terms of waste, as they are usually made from yet another type of plastic.

These types, together with another product packaging, make up nearly 1/3 of all landfilled waste. According to recent studies, plastic waste from landfills “travels” easily with a little bit of help from rainwater. Today, plastic waste constitutes between 60% and 80% of marine debris and is “one of the world’s most pervasive pollution problems impacting our oceans and waterways,” according to the U.N.

While we are facing a plastic waste epidemic, the oil industry is investing heavily in a massive surge of plastic production, which the industry expects to grow by 40% by 2030. The petrochemical industry has already spent $200bn to build new cracking plants that separate ethane from gas to produce the ethylene needed to make plastics. A further $100bn in investments is planned.

It seems that plastic is not going anywhere so, what can we do to help our environment and planet not to suffocate from an increasing amount of plastic waste?
The excellent news – Clariter can deal with the “Horrible Hybrids” as we feed on mixed plastics – and with plastics with a low value too! We can upcycle over 60% of all plastic types into plastic-free products. In case the product contains other elements like paper or foil, these get separated at Clariter’s Preparation Centre and are recycled further by our partners. A case in point is a paper recycler in Poland that recycles Tetra Pak milk and juice packaging using custom-built equipment to separate the cardboard from the plastic and foil. Clariter’s V.P. Of Business Development, Yariv Eldar, comments: “Clariter will recycle the plastic, and the remaining elements are recycled separately. Testing in Clariter’s R&D raw material preparation centre has demonstrated the possibility of separating plastic from paper from a multitude of wastepaper sources. We’ve managed not only to diverge this large plastic waste stream away from the landfills and into the Clariter process, but also to allow the paper recycling company to recycle a larger percentage of the paper and cardboard, coming much closer to their zero-waste target.”

While we cannot save the entire world at once, we can continuously reduce the amount of plastic waste by reducing, reusing, recycling and upcycling it.

This is an opinion paper written by Clariter and inspired by articles from Green Queen and The Guardian.

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