Ground-breaking facility to sort all household plastic packaging in Sweden

Smart Pack­ag­ing Europe sup­port­er and EUMEPS mem­ber BEWI will recy­cle Expand­ed Poly­styrene (EPS) in what is expect­ed to be one of the largest and most tech­no­log­i­cal­ly advanced waste man­age­ment facil­i­ties in the world: Site Zero.

To this end, BEWI signed a let­ter of intent with Swedish Plas­tic Recy­cling. Swedish Plas­tic Recy­cling is the organ­i­sa­tion that pro­vides the nation­wide sys­tem for col­lect­ing and recy­cling plas­tic pack­ag­ing waste through FTI. FTI is fund­ed by the com­pa­nies that place pack­ag­ing on the Swedish mar­ket under what is called extend­ed pro­duc­er respon­si­bil­i­ty (EPR).

Site Zero will be able to man­age all plas­tic pack­ag­ing waste from Swedish house­holds and make plas­tics cir­cu­lar – and do it com­plete­ly with­out any CO2 emis­sions. The plant will be able to sort around 200,000 tonnes per year, dou­bling today’s capac­i­ty, while at the same time sort­ing three times as many plas­tics than today. Ful­ly auto­mat­ed, it will use 60 near infra-red (NIR) sen­sors for sort­ing along an approx­i­mate­ly 5‑km-/3.1‑mile-long con­vey­or belt. It will be pow­ered by renew­able ener­gy from solar panels.

One of the plas­tics that Site Zero will sort for recy­cling is EPS. EPS will be col­lect­ed from con­sumers at 5,000 recy­cling sta­tions that FTI has installed across Swe­den. At Site Zero, the EPS will be sort­ed and packed into bales that BEWI picks up and recy­cles into new EPS prod­ucts. The EPS vol­ume from the new plant is esti­mat­ed to amount to 1,000 to 3,000 tonnes per year. BEWI itself has com­mit­ted to col­lect­ing 45,000 tonnes of EPS for recy­cling by the end of 2024 and 60,000 tonnes by the end of 2026, also from oth­er loca­tions. Yet, the EPS from Site Zero will be an impor­tant con­trib­u­tor to reach­ing these targets.

The total invest­ment in Site Zero is expect­ed to be SEK 1 bil­lion (around 97.5 mil­lion EUR), most­ly fund­ed by the indus­try itself. It marks a great step for­ward for the fur­ther increased recy­cling of EPS in the Nordic coun­tries. The project also demon­strates one of mul­ti­ple viable options to organ­ise sep­a­rate col­lec­tions and sort­ing of all house­hold plas­tic pack­ag­ing waste for recy­cling, includ­ing EPS. The EPS indus­try active­ly sup­ports imple­ment­ing these options across Europe.

Besides in high­ly effi­cient insu­la­tion prod­ucts, EPS is used in spe­cif­ic, essen­tial pack­ag­ing appli­ca­tions, includ­ing for large elec­tron­ics and elec­tri­cal appli­ances. It also has a struc­ture and look that makes it recog­nis­able. Once sep­a­rate­ly col­lect­ed and/or sort­ed based on this, EPS is eas­i­ly recy­clable, as has been demon­strat­ed by high, and fur­ther increas­ing, recy­cling rates across Europe for many years. Already in 2017, recy­cling rates for EPS post-con­sumer pack­ag­ing waste exceed­ed for exam­ple 56% in Aus­tria, 52% in Bel­gium and Nor­way, 47% in the Nether­lands, and 46% in Germany.

Site Zero will be the largest and most tech­no­log­i­cal­ly advanced plas­tic recy­cling plant in the world.
AuthorDaniel Costa