Plastic industrial waste from SOGO becomes valuable raw material: promising results of the test collection
Within PlastiCity, the City of Ghent together with GRCT set up a number of test collections. A first trial was set up in Herentals in 2020. The second was in Gent in the autumn 2021, both utilised the 5 bag system (Transparent film, coloured film, rigids, EPS and contaminated plastics).
The final test collection was performed in the spring of 2022 during a period of six weeks and concentrated on the shopping area South of Ghent (SOHO) and included mainly retail and hospitality services. For the final test collection a 2 bag system was used: transparent films without labels and rigids. As previous collections learned us that these two make up the highest quantity of material with the highest quality and profitability.
All 500 companies in the South Ghent (SOGO) shopping area in Ghent were contacted, 52 companies agreed to participate (10,4%). The participants were provided with a sorting guide which clearly explains what is expected and 2 labelled bags. Labelling the waste bags with an exclusive barcode made it possible to link specific waste streams to categories of companies (based on NACE codes). This data can be used to perform an extrapolation of the data to larger areas.Collection runs were performed once a week with an electric van and all materials were gathered at the hub before transporting the total amount to Herentals for further processing. After this run GRCT collaborated with Ghent University to analyse the composition of the waste stream.
After 3 test collections and with respect to the reference area of the test collections we can draw some interesting conclusions:
- When looking at the amount of materials collected it is clear to see that rigids and transparent films are the major fraction combining both quality and profitability.
- Retail and hospitality companies produce an interesting amount of qualitative and profitable materials:
- in retail the majority of material is transparent film.
- In the hospitality services a large amount of rigids are present. Interestly, the majority is white or transparen.
- a considerable amount of materials can be recovered with a high quality and potential value.
The general conclusion: in the inner city of Ghent there is still a large quantity of ‘lost plastics’ available, plastics of a high quality and value for recycling.
But we also see a number of hurdles:
- Accessibility of the inner city for collection vehicles is challenging
- The volume of sorted waste plastics is small per collection point and per round.
- The logistics of separate collection of plastic waste is labour intensive
So at first sight logistics remain the main hurdle for success, especially from an economical view. These type of materials should be collected separately by the main waste contractor of the area.
We do have doubts whether it is possible to run an economically successful separate collection of the ‘lost plastics’. It is for sure that additional legal obligations and/or incentives would be helpful. Still, an extrapolation that will be performed on the results from the test collections will allow for a closer look into the economic feasibility in a later stage.
Afterwards the participants were informed that contact should be made with Ivago (a waste contractor with the largest market share in the inner city of Ghent) to provide a solution for separate collection of transparent LDPE film. A suggested option would be to organise the collection of LDPE film and/or rigid plastic waste in sealed bags together with the collection of paper and cardboard. Unfortunately despite the legislative obligation, there appears to be little separate collection offer in the regular waste collection market of other plastic film and/or rigids.