Plastics bring many benefits to society, combining excellent functional properties with low costs. They enable safe, hygienic and transparent packaging for food, and they help with lightweighting in the transportation section to drive down energy consumption. However, mismanagement of plastic waste has led to unacceptable levels of plastic pollution in the environment.
“While the benefits of bioplastics have been known for a while, there are still questions throughout the supply chain on how best to dispose of them after use”, explains François de Bie, Senior Marketing & Supply Chain Director at Total Corbion PLA. “This position paper is intended for all interested parties throughout the value chain in order inform not only on the best disposal routes for PLA bioplastics, but also to guide how best to design new products for optimal end-of-life solutions”, de Bie continues.
Efficient waste collection and management are key to the European Commission’s goal of a resource-efficient Europe and its vision to move from the current linear to the envisioned circular economy. The EU Waste Framework Directive (2008/98/EC) defines a five-step waste hierarchy ranking the treatments of waste based on their ability to conserve resources. “At Total Corbion PLA we believe in the longer run it is beneficial for our planet to actively pursue end-of-life options higher up in the pyramid.” Explains Floris Buijzen, Senior Product Market Manager at Total Corbion PLA. “The ultimate goal is to avoid plastics entering the environment and PLA bioplastics can play a vital and important role in achieving that goal”, Buijzen continues.
Compostability is an end-of-life option that should only be used for specific applications and can help to efficiently manage the biggest fraction of the municipal waste stream: bio-waste. Industrially compostable plastics can help to separately collect organic waste, divert larger volumes of bio- waste to organic recycling and reduce conventional plastic contamination in the bio-bin, ultimately reducing microplastics in compost . In other words: compostable plastics should offer a co-benefit such as increasing the amount of food waste collected to be composted, or reducing the amount of fossil plastics ending up in the food- and garden waste. In Europe, only 16% of the theoretical potential of food waste that is generated is captured [ii]. Compostable plastics can play a crucial role in helping to tap into this untapped potential.
The whitepaper also states Total Corbion PLA’s position that mechanical and chemical recycling should become viable, economically feasible and commonly used end-of-life solutions for PLA-based products. Prime examples of relevant applications include trays, bottles and drinking cups. Total Corbion PLA is committed to developing the recycling value chain together with specialized PLA recycling companies to stimulate demand for rPLA, thereby increasing recycling rates for PLA-based products. Total Corbion PLA uses this paper as a platform to pose the open invitation for parties throughout the recycling value chain to collaborate together to close the loop for PLA recycling.