Nextek founder and acclaimed innovator behind NextLooPP, Professor Edward Kosior, was international keynote presenter at the Leaders’ Forum on 18 May, which focused on circular innovations for rigid and flexible plastics.
Kosior was introduced by Michael Grima, CEO & founder at qDesign Enterprises and The Pack Collective, who moderated questions at the end of the session.
In his discussion Kosior focused on innovations to boost the sorting and decontamination of recycled plastics, examined what progress was been made to reduce waste generation, looked at the next steps in increasing the closed loop economy; as well as the efficiencies in the use of limited resources and truly sustainable materials.
Exploring the current limitations to plastics circularity, Kosior, who was streamed in live from Vienna, kicked off by highlighting the importance of design for recycling, suggesting that new resins and formulations should be incorporated into the product design process.
He then went on to point out a statistic of note which backed this, saying that, currently, if we applied our very best current practices of collecting and sorting and recycling, we could only recover typically 60 per cent for handling.
Using the case study of a standard white plastic milk bottle, Kosior pointed out the importance of using the correct material, including caps, adhesives and labels, for the recycling process, highlighting the need for better adhesive systems for removing labels from milk bottles.
“There are many milk bottles on the market that are typically white. Some of these have a black layer in the middle, which is very unfriendly. And if we're going to use the metal bottles, we need a separate collection strategy to separate them out from the natural materials," he said.
He then went on to discuss food grade recycling in sorting centres, and the Food Safety Authority in both Europe and US, emphasising the suitability of recycling of materials into food and non-food applications using fluorescent markers and how the ultraviolet light (which illuminates and becomes fluorescent in a single step), provides over 99.3 per cent purity, and over 99 per cent separation in the second pass.
Moving on, he elaborated on Nextek’s Nextloopp food-grade polypropylene recycling project (a collaboration of 43 companies), to dispatch recycled resins from post-consumer food packaging; as well as the CO2 Claim high density recycling project collaborationg with Unilever and Amcal.
Other future innovations he noted are those involving solvent-based recycling for polypropylene, the initiation of thermal systems to decompose polyolefins, and the deep liberalisation to monomers for PT.
In closing, he answered the question of how best to accelerate the circular economy for plastics, by saying: "We have more to do on sorting. We must do a much better job on design. And of course, we must be better at separation. In Australia, much of the recyclables end up in the black bag and end up in a landfill, and we have to make sure that we get a better separation of those materials.
“The low processing of plastics has meant to have good quality materials. And that means we need brand owners and supermarkets to incorporate these back into new products.
“Food grade materials will be a key to unlock the markets circular materials. And what we do need is a shared vision between the chemical companies to make resins, the waste recycling industry, and also the brands and converters so everyone can see how we're going to create a circular economy and work together to create the markets for this finished materials.
“And of course we need bigger recycling operations," added Kosior.