Assessing the Sorting Efficiency of Plastic Packaging Waste in an Italian Material Recovery Facility: Current and Upgraded Configuration
The first step in reintroducing plastic waste into the recycling cycle is to use material recovery facilities (MRFs). However, while the composition and types of plastic waste are changing over time, the layout of MRFs does not always adapt to this change. In this paper, an existing MRF in Southern Italy was chosen as a reference to evaluate its current performance and to estimate possible improvements in sorting through a specific upgrade. First, an analysis of the amount, composition, and sources (in terms of type of waste and distance from the MRF) of the input waste was conducted. The composition of the input waste was then compared with the amount of selected output waste streams in order to calculate the current sorting efficiency of each stream and compare it with the values obtained from the upgrade. Lastly, the current performance of the plant was compared with a previous assessment of the same MRF in order to highlight possible variation. Results showed how the incoming waste was mainly composed of packaging plastic waste, and that some plastic waste not yet selected by the plant ended up in specific output streams. Therefore, the current performance of the MRF resulted high for PET and PE bottles (80.2% and 92.8%, respectively), in contrast to mixed or flexible packaging, where the efficiency achieved lower values (55&ndash;50%). These values were caused by a weakness in the 2D flow sorting line, which the upgrade mostly addressed. The upgraded configuration increased the production of recyclable waste from 34.32% to 50.39%, especially due to the recovery of small flexible packaging films in PE and biopolymers.