Critical properties of plastic packaging waste for recycling: A case study on non-beverage plastic bottles in an urban MSW system in Austria

Lea Gritsch, Gisela Breslmayer, Ricarda Rainer, Hana Stipanovic, Alexia Tischberger-Aldrian, Jakob Lederer

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Abstract

The low recycling rate of post-consumer plastic packaging waste (PPW), which is partly due to insufficient separate collection, heterogeneous composition and high levels of contamination, poses a challenge in Austria, where the recycling rate must double in order to meet the target of 55 %. This study analyzes key packaging characteristics of non-beverage plastic bottles influencing recyclability, using Vienna as a case study. Addi-
tionally, a net quantity indicator and separate collection rates were calculated. 738 bottles from mixed MSW and 1,159 bottles from separate PPW collection were analyzed. The main polymer’s proportion described by the net quantity indicator was higher for bottles from separate collection (69–72 %) than from mixed MSW (58 %), showing that a large share of the foreign materials are residues and dirt, with significantly higher contents in
mixed MSW (20 %) than in separate collection (11 %). With a separate collection rate of 19.2 %, the great potential for recycling currently lies in mixed MSW at 4,112 t/yr. Thereof, 46 % is uncolored, 54 % is colored/white and, in terms of material grade, 30 % is food grade. The most common filling volume for PET, PP and HDPE was 0.5 < x ≤ 1.5 L (23–59 %) and the most common decoration technology was label (60–85 %). PET and PP had the highest shares of food-grade bottles (37–46 %), while PP had the highest share of colored bottles
(22–31 %). The mechanical recycling potential of bottles depends largely on packaging characteristics, influencing separate collection and also automatic sorting. Harmonized design specifications are therefore crucial for this heterogeneous PPW fraction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-24
JournalWaste management
Volume2024
Issue number185
Publication statusPublished - 22 May 2024

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