Raising plastics European recycling targets could create 50,000 new jobs across the continent and boost the region’s economy, reports Plastics News. The analysis been conducted by management consultants at Deloitte on behalf of the Brussels-based trade association Plastics Recyclers Europe (PRE).

Entitled ‘Increased EU Plastics Recycling Targets Environmental, Economic and Social Impact Assessment’, the report highlights that increased plastics recycling could have ‘a reinvigorating effect on European Union employment’.

In particular, it found that increasing plastics recycling targets within the European Union (EU) could create 50,000 jobs in Europe’s plastics recycling value chain within five years. It could also create a further 75,000 indirect jobs in related industries. These figures could rise to 80,000 direct and 120,000 indirect jobs by 2025.

The report findings are complemented by a recent report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which indicates that Europe stands to grow its economy by €1.8tn by 2030 by moving to circular economy. More sustainable waste management is a vital part of this transition.

The funds required to expand the continent’s recycling industry – approximately €1bn by 2020 and €1.5bn by 2025 – could be ‘reasonably tackled by investments from the EU and other sources,’ the report argued. However, there may well be some challenges along the way: ‘Setting high targets is a prerequisite to spur higher recycling performance but will not necessarily lead to increased recycling if existing barriers within the plastics recycling value chain are not successfully overcome.’

The report also advocated transparency in the calculation of targets, recycling rates and in capturing data on the quantities of recycled plastic produced. Recyclers would ideally need to report on the volumes they are producing, it suggested.

Additionally, improved collection facilities will be crucial to expanding Europe’s recycling industry, particularly with just 41% of European packaging waste currently collected for recycling and approximately 25% actually recycled (the proposed target is 45%).

Recycling capacity must also be increased, since plants in the EU are currently only able to handle around half of the plastic waste collected, with the rest being exported (typically to developing countries such as China). Finally, more action should be taken to grow the demand for recycled plastic, if the increased recycling rates are to be met, the report emphasised.

Certain measures, such as tax incentives for products containing recycled plastics, could be introduced. For example, MBA Polymers has already suggested a 0% tax on recycled plastic to the UK government. In 2014, we welcomed the former Business Secretary, Vince Cable, to our Worksop plant to explain how we’re building a more sustainable future for plastics, creating job opportunities and helping to forge a more regenerative economy.

The report concluded: ‘Ultimately, a balance in supply of plastic waste and demand of recycled plastics needs to be established in order to enable a healthy and sustainable recycling sector.’

Our founder and director, Mike Biddle recently supported the Green Electronics Council’s (GEC’s) first ever circular economy conference. Entitled ‘Emerging Green 2015′, the event united professionals across the global electronics industry to discuss the progress, challenges and future of sustainable electronics.

As a member of the GEC board and a globally recognised circular economy pioneer, Mike played a key role in designing a dynamic, informative conference programme and helped to attract several of the event’s main speakers. His keynote speech, which set the stage for the three-day conference and challenged people to think big on circular solutions, was well received by participants.

Through more than 20 dedicated sessions and presentations, experts and thought leaders explored how electronics companies can contribute to a circular economy. They covered the full spectrum of the electronics lifecycle, from material selection and human rights issues in the supply chain to closing the loop and emerging technologies. Speakers included HP’s VP of corporate responsibility, Kyle Wiens, co-founder of electronics repair organisation i-fixit, and Facebook’s director of sustainability.

“The Emerging Green conference provided a great opportunity to hear from and meet some of the world’s leading experts on sustainable electronics,” says Mike. “At this crucial point in time, the electronics industry stands to stem the flow of electronic waste and make a significant contribution to cutting pollution, conserving energy and improving the lives of millions in its supply chain.”

This was the sentiment expressed by Dame Ellen MacArthur at her recent TED talk in Vancouver. MacArthur began by describing her long-held dream of sailing around the world, and how she made it happen. In 2005, aged 29, she broke the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe. While she was on her amazing journey, thousands of miles from civilisation, she made a stark realisation: just as she had packed all the food, fuel and clothes she needed for the duration of the trip, so Earth’s natural resources are also finite. “What we have out there is all we have – there is no more,” she says.

From then on, she rapidly began to connect the dots – the global economy was no different to her solo trip in this sense – it’s based on a finite supply of natural materials. “It was like seeing something unexpected under stone – I could choose to ignore it and replace the stone, or not…” says MacArthur. She chose the latter, and began a new journey of learning, speaking to scientists, economists and businesses leaders to understand how our global economy works.

With our stocks of fossil fuels depleting and just decades left until we run out of materials like copper, zinc and silver (according to current projections), it was clear that something had to be done. A rapidly increasing global population creating a steady demand for more ‘stuff’, coupled with a ‘throwaway’ consumer culture, has led to a frenzied consumption of natural resources, and mountains of waste.

Not only this – the precarious state of natural resources puts businesses under pressure too – raw material price volatility poses significant risks for the world’s manufacturers.

MacArthur realised the system was fundamentally flawed – that it would buckle and break if we kept up the ‘take, make, waste’ model. Through her research and conversations with experts, she realised that a circular system – whereby all materials are used in a restorative way that mimics nature – would ultimately allow humanity to thrive in the long term.

She established the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in 2010 and hasn’t looked back. Through the Foundation, many experts have collaborated to understand best practices – industrial symbiosis, Cradle to Cradle design, biomimicry, ‘access over ownership’ – and how they can contribute to a regenerative economy, a world without waste.

Now, MacArthur concludes, they have a plan. The circular economy can be scaled up – we can decouple growth from resource restraints – with real commitment from government, businesses and society. Young people have been truly inspired by the circular economy and the opportunities it brings. Their creativity and knowledge will be vital in building a new economic system.

Click here to view the full TED talk.

With a strong commitment to manufacturing responsible products, household cleaning goods maker EasyDo sought a high quality recycled plastic for its washing-up brush brand, Dishmatic.

In its drive for sustainability, efficiency and product quality, EasyDo asked MBA Polymers to tailor MBA’s recycled ABS plastic to meet its exact needs. It required a robust, high-performing plastic to apply to the plate that attaches to the foam washing-up pad (which clips onto the handle). In particular, the plastic had to form a strong bond with the glue to stop the pad breaking off during use by consumers.

EasyDo had previously been using HIPS (high impact polystyrene) and wanted to select a material with superior performance characteristics. During the testing phase, MBA worked closely with EasyDo to tailor the properties of its ABS plastic for the application in hand, fine-tuning the material to meet the rigorous criteria of Dishmatic’s impact test.

Through this collaboration, EasyDo was impressed by the quality of MBA’s recycled ABS plastic. The material proved to be highly robust and also offered improved bonding properties, allowing the glue to stick to the sponge better. Importantly, the bond was not affected by washing-up liquid.

Since EasyDo made the switch to MBA’s recycled ABS, consumer complaints regarding the bond loosening have reduced, the company has cut its rejected materials rate and lowered machine downtime.

In addition to the high-performing nature of the material, EasyDo values the flexibility offered by MBA during the ordering process and the team’s responsiveness to queries. The sustainability credentials of the finished product are also attractive to its high profile retail customers, while sourcing recycled plastic is helping EasyDo to take further steps to reduce the carbon footprint of its products.

“The MBA team were great at bringing us new materials to try and very thorough in getting the characteristics of the plastic just right,” says Simon Johnson, Production Manager, EasyDo. “If we see any fluctuations in our impact test, we know that we can rely on MBA to provide a rapid solution. This coupled with our flexible, collaborative working relationship makes the company a dream to be working with.”

Looking to the future, Easy-Do plans to continue increasing the proportion of recycled materials it uses across all its brands. Its Eco-force products are already made from at least 90% recycled materials.

Photo by Hareyuki Yamaguchi

We have previously shared the story of Dutch entrepreneur Boyan Slat’s plans to rid the ocean of plastic waste. Now, the 20-year-old student and CEO of The Ocean Clean-up has revealed that he will begin the journey to make his plans a reality. Speaking at the Seoul Digital Forum in South Korea, Asia’s largest technology conference, he explained that his design to capture plastic waste ‘passively’ by harnessing the power of tidal currents, will be deployed in 2016.

The likely location for the ‘clean-up’ array will be off the coast of Tsushima, an island located in the waters between Japan and South Korea. The feasibility of this location is currently being researched. The array will span 2000m, thereby becoming the longest floating structure ever deployed in the ocean (beating the current record of 1000m held by the Tokyo Mega-Float). It will be in operation for at least two years.

Meanwhile, engineers at Tsushima Island are evaluating whether the plastic could be used as an alternative energy source. Approximately one cubic metre of plastic pollution per person is washed up each year on the island, which has prompted the Japanese government to seek innovative solutions.

Should the venture prove successful, The Ocean Clean-up will deploy arrays of increasing scale around the world. Within five years, it aims to implement a 100km-long system to clean up half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, between Hawaii and California.

In other ocean plastic news, it is reported that sportswear giant Adidas plans to follow in the footsteps of G-STAR Raw by using yarn derived from ocean plastic waste as raw materials for clothing and potentially footwear. It will collaborate with innovation group Parley from 2016 to develop suitable fibres.

New interactive map shows extent of ocean plastic waste

There are five trillion pieces of plastic floating in the ocean, according to a consortium of 12 research institutions. This ‘plastic smog’ covering the surface of the oceans has a combined weight of nearly 300,000 tonnes, the equivalent of approximately 1,500 blue whales. You can now see were the concentration of plastic is heaviest via a new map published by Popular Science.

The two oceans of the Northern Hemisphere contain 56% of all floating plastic particles and 57% of the total weight. In the Southern Hemisphere, the Indian Ocean contains 1.3 trillion pieces of plastic, a greater particle count and weight than the South Atlantic and South Pacific oceans combined. By combining coastal population figures with plastic consumption and waste management data, scientists have concluded that the majority of the waste has emanated from China.

The Economist is holding its third World Ocean Summit in June 2015 to set a new global agenda for the ‘blue economy’ – a vision of the oceans and coasts as a source of economic growth, job creation and investment. The concept of blue growth is far from the traditional ‘take, make, waste’ model that has so far defined conventional economic activity. The proponents of the blue economy see a world in which the goods and services we get from the ocean are balanced by responsible investment in sustainability – creating a ‘win win’ scenario for business, people and the environment.

Companies striving for blue growth would act through enlightened self-interest, according to The Economist, catalysing economic development and making it more profitable to protect the ocean than pillage and pollute it.

This year’s summit will be hosted in association with National Geographic, and will unite more than 250 global leaders from diverse sectors to discuss the way ahead for blue growth. To help get the creative juices flowing, The Economist has launched the Ocean Innovation Challenge, calling on businesses to propose scalable, economically viable and environmentally sustainable innovations that contribute to the long-term health of our oceans. The winner will be invited to the summit to present their idea to business leaders and ocean economy experts.

The World Ocean Summit will take place on 3rd June 2015, just days before the upcoming Plasticity Forum, also due to be held in Portugal.

“We often talk about the Stone Age, the Iron Age, the Bronze Age… Now, people are starting to refer to this age as the Plastics Age – it’s in everything,” MBA’s founder Mike Biddle explains, speaking in Pharrell Williams’ new film-documentary ‘The Plastic Age’. The film, launched to bring greater global awareness to the plastic pollution issue, sees Biddle join a host of speakers including Markus Erikson and Anna Cummins from not-for-profit organisation 5 Gyres, Tyson Toussant of Bionic Yarn, and Captain Charles Moore, the man who discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch back in 1997.

Speaking about his discovery, Moore explains that he felt compelled to understand how much plastic was there. His expeditions found six times as much plastic as plankton in 1999, which rocketed up to 36 times by 2009. Now, the Ocean Conservancy estimates that there could soon be as much plastic in the oceans as fish.

The 17-minute film begins by taking viewers through the crazy marketing frenzy that surrounded plastics in the 1950s, as ‘convenience’ became the new buzz word, through to the 288m tonnes of plastic now being produced each year. It highlights that much of this plastic, millions of tonnes, finds its way to the oceans.

Mike Biddle in The Plastics Age

“You can dip a net into any ocean in the world and find plastic,” says Cummins. “It gets there through storm drains and rivers… It blows out of garbage cans and falls out of dumpster trucks.”

“In the past 50 years, we have ‘plasticised’ our planet,” adds Erikson.

The story continues in Hawaii, the world’s most isolated archipelago, where people including conservationists and surfers regularly find plastic waste that has washed up from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – from as far away as Russia, America and Asia. We also hear how commonplace it has become for humans to have synthetic chemicals flowing through their veins, partially as a result of eating fish that have consumed small particles of plastic in the oceans.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. The film is cautiously optimistic about humans’ ability to turn the situation around. Speakers consistently point out that the plastic waste in the ocean is waiting to be mined, that we can make use of it to meet our existing needs, without making petroleum-based plastic from scratch.

“The volume of plastic produced annually is the same weight as every man, woman and child on Earth,” says Captain Moore. “Imagine if we recovered and reused it.”

“Humans adapt, we’re creative – that’s what we do so well,” adds marine biologist Dr Wallace Nichols.

Showing of The Plastics Age in a cinema

The new G-Star RAW ‘Raw for the Oceans’ range of denim clothing, co-created by Williams, illustrates a new way of doing business that protect oceans, according to Parley, the group that helped to catalyse the project.

Indeed, harnessing people’s imagination and innovating through unusual multi-stakeholder collaborations is what we need to tackle this monumental issue, the film concludes.

To view the full ‘Plastic Age’ documentary, please click here.

With a strong commitment to manufacturing responsible products, household cleaning goods maker EasyDo sought a high quality recycled plastic for its washing-up brush brand, Dishmatic. The company sells some [200,000] washing-up brushes to major UK supermarkets every week, and a further [xx] brushes to retailers in the US and Australia.

In its drive for sustainability, efficiency and product quality, EasyDo asked MBA Polymers to tailor MBA’s recycled ABS plastic to meet its exact needs. It required a robust, high-performing plastic to apply to the plate that attaches to the foam washing-up pad (which clips onto the handle). In particular, the plastic had to form a strong bond with the glue to stop the pad breaking off during use by consumers.

EasyDo had previously been using HIPS (high impact polystyrene) and wanted to select a material with superior performance characteristics. During the testing phase, MBA worked closely with EasyDo to tailor the properties of its ABS plastic for the application in hand, fine-tuning the material to meet the rigorous criteria of Dishmatic’s impact test.

Through this collaboration, EasyDo was impressed by the quality of MBA’s recycled ABS plastic. The material proved to be highly robust and also offered improved bonding properties, allowing the glue to stick to the sponge better. Importantly, the bond was not affected by washing-up liquid.

Attachments using MBA Polymers recycled plastic

Since EasyDo made the switch to MBA’s recycled ABS, consumer complaints regarding the bond loosening have reduced by [xx]%, the company has cut its rejected materials rate by [xx]% and lowered machine downtime by [xx]%.

In addition to the high-performing nature of the material, EasyDo values the flexibility offered by MBA during the ordering process and the team’s responsiveness to queries. The sustainability credentials of the finished product are also attractive to its high profile retail customers, while sourcing recycled plastic is helping EasyDo to take further steps to reduce the carbon footprint of its products.

“The MBA team were great at bringing us new materials to try and very thorough in getting the characteristics of the plastic just right,” says Simon Johnson, Production Manager, EasyDo. “If we see any fluctuations in our impact test, we know that we can rely on MBA to provide a rapid solution. This coupled with our flexible, collaborative working relationship makes the company a dream to be working with.”

Looking to the future, Easy-Do plans to continue increasing the proportion of recycled materials it uses across all its brands. Its Eco-force products are already made from at least 90% recycled materials.

Five graduates in the Netherlands have developed a recycled plastic filament for 3D printers, made from end-of-life car dashboards. Through their Better Future Factory innovation consultancy, the young Rotterdam-based entrepreneurs have formed a start-up company called Refil to manufacture and sell the filament.

As 3D printing takes off – the market is set to reach $16bn by 2018 – there is a risk that more virgin plastic will be consumed and more plastic waste created, adding to the already substantial plastic pollution challenge. Refil’s new ‘refilament’ offers an alternative to virgin plastic filament, in a move that will make 3D printing more sustainable, the company says.

Refil has made its first batch of ‘refilaments’ from old car dashboards, door panels and other ABS parts (creating a 100% recycled black filament) and PET bottles (creating a 90% recycled translucent filament). The recycling process works by shredding scraps into tiny pieces and removing contaminants. The pieces are then melted and turned into 1.75mm or 2.85mm diameter strings that are wound around recycled carbon spools. Importantly, there are no harmful chemicals used in the process.

“We don’t add any toxic dyes to our products and this has been our biggest challenge. After a lot of research, we have developed refilaments that have the exact same quality as ordinary filaments, without adding any toxics,” Refil researcher Laura Klaus tells PSFK.

Elsewhere, US-based start-up Dimension Polymers has also just showcased its new recycled plastic filament. The company shared its creation at the 3D Print Show in New York. Having raised more than $20,000 via an online crowd-funding campaign, it has developed a proprietary recycling system to produce 95% recycled ABS plastic filaments. The team sources the feedstock from waste collection centres and scrap yards.

Refil’s ‘refilament’ recently won the IDTechEx Best Material Development Award at the 3D Printing Europe Awards. To read more about Refil, click here.

To hear how MBA Polymers is helping its JV partner EMR to exceed EU end-of-life vehicle (ELV) recycling targets, please visit our website.

It’s hard to imagine life without plastic. It’s a versatile material that we encounter throughout our daily routines – from brushing our teeth, storing food or washing our clothes to watching TV or browsing the internet. Giving up our use of plastic completely would be a tough feat. But there are things we can all do to stop plastic from becoming waste. These small changes could add up to big changes in the long run, and help prevent plastic waste from polluting our oceans and damaging the environment.

Here are a few ideas:

1. Enjoy your coffee from a refillable cup

Why not grab your morning coffee with a KeepCup or thermos? Just keep it handy at home or in your car, and ask your local barista to make your favourite drink in your own cup. Then give it wash and you’re ready to go again. In the same way, why not fill reusable bottles with water for day trips? Increasingly, you can also buy household essentials like olive oil from your local delicatessen by simply bringing along a glass bottle to be refilled.

2. Use your own bag for grocery shopping

These days there are many alternatives to using disposable plastic bags for shopping. Most supermarkets sell reusable bags and they’re available at countless other stores – with options including canvas, jute and sustainable cotton. Finding alternatives will become ever more useful as governments gradually take action on eliminating old school disposable plastic bags. They’re already illegal in California and Italy, while in Scotland there’s now a 5p charge per bag.

3. Store food in durable containers

Making the switch to durable containers for food storage will save you money and is a practical way to keep food fresh. Investing in a set of durable plastic boxes or storing things in glass jars will avoid the need to buy cling film or individual plastic bags. You could even take containers with you to the shops and fill up on fruit and vegetables without using plastic bags. You could also use less plastic packaging by eating fewer convenience foods or growing your own veg.

4. Change your beauty routine

A few simple changes to your beauty routine could help stop plastic waste from reaching the oceans. For example, there’s been a lot of controversy surrounding the plastic microbeads found in beauty products such as face washes. These tiny exfoliating beads can’t be filtered out by waste water treatment facilities, and all too easily find their way to the oceans, where they’re mistaken for food by marine species. New York has even taken action to ban microbeads in beauty products.

You could also consider using bars of soap over plastic bottled liquid soap, and selecting a straight-edge razor or a razor that allows you to replace the blades.

5. Repair, reuse or share

When household items break, find out if they can be repaired. There are plenty of repair cafes springing up, and handy online platforms like ifixit can help with advice on electronic and electrical items. Similarly, the Restart Project helps people fix e-goods both online and through ‘restart’ parties.

If you need to buy something new, a quick Ebay search could save time and money in finding a replacement. You could also consider sharing goods. With 80% of our possessions in use less than once a month, there’s a real opportunity to get involved in the sharing economy and either rent or share goods when you need them.