What kind of garbage should the outer packaging of used laundry detergent and the snack packaging be? Would you like to join them if they are collected and reused? Led by the Joint Working Group on the Supply Chain of Green Recycled Plastics (GRPG) and the Recycled Plastics Branch of China Material Recycling Association, the project of "soft plastics rebirth" jointly initiated by several units will be officially launched, which will explore a new model for the development of plastic circular economy and realize closed-loop high value utilization of plastic flexible packaging.
Why is it "soft plastic"—— Huge volume, recycling needs breakthrough
Polyethylene, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene... There are hundreds of plastics that look similar in life, and each of them has different recycling methods. The process is complex. Because of its diverse materials, complexity, light weight and other characteristics, plastic flexible packaging has become a global problem.
It is estimated that among the 4500 tons of raw materials used to produce plastic packaging in China in 2020, the plastic raw materials used to produce plastic flexible packaging will exceed 20 million tons. Because of this, China's plastic recycling rate has been hovering around 30% in recent years. Although it has been in the forefront of the world, it has also fallen into the "bottleneck" of growth, and the recycling of plastic soft packaging needs to be broken through.
"In principle, every kind of plastic can be recycled, but compared with traditional packaging, plastics made of a single material can not only ensure the necessary functions of packaging, but also greatly reduce the complexity of the process in the utilization stage, thus improving the utilization rate. Single material is one of the important indicators of easy recycling." Wang Yonggang, secretary-general of the Renewable Plastics Branch of China Material Recycling Association and deputy leader of the Joint Working Group on Green Renewable Plastics Supply Chain, said.
According to the special research report "The Future 2025 of the Single Material Plastic Packaging Film Market" recently released by the third-party testing agency Smithers, its market size will be 20.44 million tons ($55.9 billion) in 2019, and may increase to 26.03 million tons ($70.9 billion) in 2025. Asia Pacific, North America and Western Europe are the three major consumer markets of single material plastic packaging film in the world. In 2020, the above three regional markets will account for 48.6%, 17.2% and 15.5% of the global single material plastic packaging film market respectively.
In fact, as early as 2020, the Government Procurement Demand Standard for Commodity Packaging (Trial) issued by the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, the National Post Office and other departments also proposed that the number of commodity packaging layers should not exceed 3, the porosity should not exceed 40%, and the commodity packaging should use single material packaging materials as much as possible.
Under the guidance of policies and the influence of the concept of sustainable development, the industry has been paying more attention to single material plastics. The soft plastic that can be seen everywhere in our daily life has become the experimental field of plastic packaging with single material for many enterprises, constantly joining the army of "single material".
"Up to now, many brands under Mars, such as Dev, Snickers, Crispy Rice, Baolu, Weijia, and Meishi, have introduced single material soft plastic packaging in the Chinese market, so as to facilitate the recycling of the back-end." Bao Chen, director of public affairs of Mars China, said.
Not only the food, but also the daily chemical product packaging around us that we need every day is slowly changing into a single material plastic packaging.
"P&G has introduced many products in the past few years that use single material plastic packaging, such as Tide laundry beads." Zhou Wandi, director of sustainable development research and development of P&G, said.
It is particularly worth mentioning that as early as February 1, 2021, the General Principles for the Evaluation of the Design of Plastic Products for Easy Recycling (hereinafter referred to as the "Double Easy Design Standard") of the Green Plastic Recycling Supply Chain Joint Working Group (GRPG) was officially implemented. The concept is to fully consider the recyclability and recyclability when designing the front-end plastic products, and improve the recycling rate and high value utilization of waste plastics in China from the source.
Why have you been sleeping—— The supply chain is not sound enough
Although the single material soft plastic packaging shouldering the heavy task of recycling is generally favored by the industry, the recycling situation is quite embarrassing: most of the packaging bags have "gone" to the landfill or incinerator, and did not play its due value.
"Plastic soft bags can be recycled? I really don't know. I haven't noticed the material of these packages. I only know that plastic bottles should be collected separately." Beside a garbage station in a residential area in Fengtai District, Beijing, a citizen was throwing away a bag of garbage mixed with plastic packaging.
"At present, the recycling value of soft plastic packaging has not been effectively explored, consumers have no strong awareness of soft packaging recycling, and it is difficult to identify whether it is a single material soft packaging that is easy to recycle and regenerate." Wang Yonggang said frankly.
Many insiders expressed the same view. Fan Zhimin, the public director of PepsiCo Greater China, said that at present, consumers do not have a high awareness of the recyclability and reusability of plastic flexible packaging, and there is a bottleneck in the high value utilization of plastic flexible packaging.
In addition to the lack of public awareness, Bao Chen also mentioned the infrastructure construction: "Some cities have also established corresponding sorting centers and recycling facilities, but the collection, sorting and recycling facilities for recyclable materials, including soft plastics, are lacking, which also brings some challenges to the later high value utilization."
In fact, many experts and scholars have called for the establishment of a special sorting organization for plastic waste before this, so that these resources can be turned into treasure as soon as possible.
"The transformation of soft plastic packaging into a single material is only the first step. It is difficult for enterprises to form large-scale social effects by themselves. The government, industry and enterprises need to work together to issue relevant standards to jointly promote the high value utilization of recycled plastics." Zhou Wandi said.
Zhang Deyuan, associate researcher of the Institute of Economic System and Management of the Macroeconomic Research Institute of the National Development and Reform Commission, said earlier that the prevention and control of plastic pollution is an extremely complex social problem, which requires extensive mobilization of the government, enterprises and the public to build a full chain management system covering plastic design, production, circulation, consumption and recycling.
"After the plastic packaging waste is recycled, good technical support and business case carrier are needed to truly realize the high value utilization of recycled waste. At present, every link has challenges, but it is also a huge opportunity." Xiao Keda, the marketing director of packaging, sanitary materials and health in Asia Pacific region of Dow, said.
How to "rebirth"—— Jointly connect the industrial chain
It is against this background that the policy has support, the market has demand, and the enterprise has power. The "soft plastic rebirth" project jointly initiated by the Joint Working Group on the Supply Chain of Green Recycled Plastics (GRPG) and the Recycled Plastics Branch of China Material Recycling Association, together with P&G China, Mars China, Dow and PepsiCo, was officially established.
"We hope that through the publicity and guidance of the project, consumers will pay attention to the recycling of plastic flexible packaging for consumer goods, promote the correct recycling, classification, delivery and reuse of single material plastic flexible packaging in daily life, explore the popularization of socialization and the establishment of recycling standards, so as to make the best use of everything and help the green circular economy." Wang Yonggang said.
It is reported that the "soft plastic rebirth" project is aimed at establishing the "design production consumption recycling recycling high-value application" system of plastic flexible packaging by gathering the strength of all links of the industrial chain and taking the design standard of plastic products that are easy to recycle as guidance. Break barriers, realize the recycling of plastic flexible packaging and gradually move towards closed-loop high-value utilization.
According to the work plan and objectives set by the project team, the project is divided into four stages. By carrying out special pilot, demonstration, replication and promotion, it is expected that by 2025, the scope of the project will be expanded to the first, second and third tier cities in China. The "soft plastic rebirth" project will achieve an annual recovery of 50000 tons of plastic soft packaging.
Enterprises in the industry also showed great enthusiasm and support for this project, and placed high hopes on the project.
"We believe that the project is very timely and can link up with upstream and downstream enterprises to innovate, carry out the design of plastic flexible packaging that is easy to recycle and regenerate from the source, improve consumer awareness, tap the recycling value of plastic flexible packaging, and break through the bottleneck of high-value utilization, which can make due contributions to the country's" dual carbon "goal." Fan Zhimin said.
Bao Chen said that Mars hopes to explore and create a feasible and replicable local demonstration project of soft plastic recycling through cooperation with all parties, promote the improvement of relevant policies, regulations and infrastructure construction while improving the recycling rate of soft plastic, and initially establish China's soft plastic recycling system.
"Prior to this, P&G has done a series of work in preventing and controlling plastic pollution. We hope that the implementation of this project will promote the recycling of plastic flexible packaging to a new level." Zhou Wandi said.
This is not the first time that industry associations and plastic enterprises have joined hands. Since the establishment of the Joint Working Group on the Supply Chain of Green Recycled Plastics (GRPG), the "back" logo for easy recycling and easy recycling design and the "back" logo for the green recycled plastic specification system aimed at making more plastic wastes fully realize standardized recycling have been successively released, constantly opening a new chapter in the green recycled plastic supply chain, Lead the establishment and development of green low-carbon cycle system in the plastic industry.
"Dow will continue to work with its value chain partners, associations and the government to achieve the implementation of the business model from technology to physical objects to the final perfection, so as to truly improve the recycling and high-value reuse of plastics. There is a long way to go in the future, but we are full of confidence." Xiao Koda said.
"It is hoped that the implementation of this project can improve the recycling rate of plastic flexible packaging waste, contribute to the construction of a 'waste free city', and explore a new model for the development of plastic circular economy in China and even the world." Wang Yonggang said.
Contact Person: Mr. Fan