SAO PAULO (ICIS)--Braskem is starting up a pilot programme that attempts to resolve one of the biggest challenges in eliminating plastic waste and encouraging more people to recycle.
So far, markets have largely failed to establish a value on plastic waste.
Without such a value, people have little incentive to properly dispose of plastic waste.
This month, Braskem started a pilot programme with several other companies that will award credits to people who bring plastic waste to a recycling machine at a service station in Sao Paulo.
The customers need to deposit clean packaging with bar codes. In return, they can receive credits, which they can redeem at Boxter service stations and convenience stores.
If successful, the credits will assign a value to plastic waste, which has proven so elusive to the industry.
Once the plastic is deposited in the machines, another company, Dinamica Ambiental, will ship it to cooperatives, where it will be separated and recycled.
Braskem is also working with Zaraplast, which is making bags that consumers can use to store their plastic waste, said Fabiana Quiroga, Braskem director of recycling and the Wecycle platform. Wecycle refers to Braskem's larger programme that promotes and encourages plastic recycling.
Quiroga made her comments on the sidelines of the Feiplastic trade show.
Zaraplast is also working with other companies to recruit them into the programme, she said.
Braskem would like to expand the programme beyond Boxter so consumers could redeem points from other retailers, Quiroga said.
Right now, the plastic waste deposited in the machine will be manually sorted because the volumes being collected by the pilot programme are too small to warrant automation, Quiroga said.
Sorting the waste by the type of plastic is important because a batch of pure resin will result in a finished product with better qualities than one made with a mix of resins.
If the programme becomes large enough, Braskem plans to automate the sorting by relying on infrared scanners and bar codes on the packaging, Quiroga said.
The infrared scanners can identify the type of plastic used in the packaging.
Although the bar codes do not provide specific information about the plastic, it does identify brand names and other information about the packaging. Braskem can then use a database to match this information to the corresponding plastic.
The bar codes can also provide Braskem with details about the types of plastic waste that people are recycling.
With enough information, Braskem can teach the machine how to identify other types of packaging that lacks bar codes.
With an identification system in place, Braskem can award points based on the type of plastics that consumers return to recycling machine.
Right now, the pilot programme accepts aluminium and rigid plastic packaging, Quiroga said. The acceptable plastics include polyethylene terephthalate (PET), high density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PP).
The Feira Internacional do Plastic (Feiplastic) takes place on 22-26 April in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Click here to see regulatory targets and a list of chemical and mechanical recyclers on the ICIS Circular Economy topic page.
Interview article by Al Greenwood