System Change – If Not Now, When?
There’s never been so much trash at a K trade fair before. We mean recycled trash. It’s not only that the recycling plant manufacturers will be stepping out at Düsseldorf, Germany, with confidence and a host of new ideas. Any self-respecting manufacturer is showing at least one application involving recyclate at its booth in October. Ideally combined with an Industry 4.0-compatible assistance system, which compensates for fluctuating material quality.
The omens are therefore favorable that the crucial system change toward more sustainability in industrial production will take off at last. However, this can only succeed if the big brand owners, who are also the big plastics consumers, go along with it. Some key names have already committed themselves: ‧Unilever aims to ensure that, by 2025, all its plastic packaging is completely reusable, recyclable or compostable. By 2024, Adidas will no longer be using virgin polyester to manufacture its sports shoes, and use the highest possible proportion of post-consumer shoes instead. And by August 2020, Ikea aims to make all its own plastic products 100 % recyclable, or manufacture them from recyclate. Others will (hopefully) follow – otherwise investors and consumers will no longer follow them.
If the industry wants to be taken seriously, it must look the facts in the eye. According to experts, the quota of plastics actually recycled in Germany, without creative accounting, is a world apart from the published figure of 47 % of recycled plastic waste. The task now is to forge alliances between manufacturers, retailers and consumers, and decisively close the loops in as many ‧application fields as possible.
This will unquestionably be a Herculean task that will challenge the entire supply chain, starting with the design of products – and that must mean design for recycling – through to their end of life. But K 2019 could be the start.
Dr. Clemens Doriat
International Polymer Processing, the journal of the Polymer Processing Society, is a discussion forum for the world-wide community of engineers and scientists in the field of polymer processing.
The journal covers research and industrial application in the very specific areas of designing polymer products, processes, processing machinery and equipment.
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