The British disposal company, FCC Environment, is at present fuelling the conflict in the European plastics recycling sector. FCC's marketing boss, Kristian Dales, describes incineration as "the method of choice".
In a company statement, FCC's marketing boss, Kristian Dales, contradicted the opinion of Helmut Maurer from the EU Commission's waste and recycling department who is convinced that the use of plastic waste for energy production should only be the final option, when recycling is no longer possible. Dales, on the other hand, sheds doubt on the marketability of recycling, and describes incineration as the method of choice.
It's all very well to advocate recycling, says Dales, but there is simply no economically viable market for it. In view of the weakening of global feedstock markets and the present downward spiralling of oil prices, which is already having a negative effect on the demand for recycled plastic, he does not see any stable underlying conditions for investment. In any case, there are not sufficient processing capacities in the UK for large recycling volumes. As a result, recycling quotas in that country are stagnating, and, apart from that, the legal initiatives to stimulate the secondary raw material market are nowhere to be seen. Against this background, it was a "challenge" to invest in new recycling plants. Dales is therefore proceeding on the assumption that income from recycling will decline. In contrast, energy recovery could be worthwhile. In the UK, there is lively demand for substitute fuels from overseas incineration plants. Low freight costs and a strong British pound were additionally pushing export demand. Dales regrets that the UK, which imports energy, is losing this value of substitute fuels because there is no domestic market for it.
In a recent press release, Ton Emans, President of Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE), vehemently condemned the endeavour to encourage the incineration of plastic waste. Incineration and landfills, he said, lag well behind the options of reuse and recycling in the waste hierarchy, which, after all, constitutes the basis for European waste legislation. Products that can no longer be reused and thus become waste should therefore, in the first instance, be recycled. The existing market constraints along the value chain must be overcome. In this respect, PRE is very hopeful of support from the EU Commission's new waste management package.
That more would be possible in the UK, too, if people only wanted it, is to be the topic of a new seminar at the British Plastics Federation (BPF). BPF, with around 400 members from the entire value chain right the way through to recyclers (link: BPFRG), is the most important association in the UK plastics industry. The event, entitled "Recycling the Unrecyclable" will explain to the delegates the state of the art that will ensure that material previously classified as "unrecyclable" is returned to the economic cycle. In the UK, a considerable quantity of plastic waste is labelled "unrecyclable" because it is either technically "too difficult" to recycle or is simply economically unviable.