Recycling plastic film in developing countries is an enormous challenge! An example of how it can be done

By Sophie van den Berg, solid waste expert and plastic recycling adviser at WASTE

 

In developing countries plastic waste is accumulating on the streets, in the rivers and waste dumps are filling up rapidly. The growing amount of plastic waste is one of the effects of the growing economy as the use of plastic bags increase and as natural packing materials are replaced by plastic bags, food containers, cups and pots. Plastic film is also increasingly used in agriculture for instance to protect bananas from diseases, to cover the soil after seeding or to protect fruit from bruising and the like.

While plastic items with value, such as PET bottles and rigid plastics (jerrycans, buckets, etc) are collected and recycled, the plastic film and bags do not have much value and are not collected and end up littering the streets, the rivers, the seas and the world.

It is good to know that  it is possible to recycle plastic bags and films on the condition that it is possible to generate sufficient quantities of 1 single type of plastic. And to turn the plastic waste into something valuable for local communities.

An interesting example on how that has been done is the case study in Peru.

1. Analysis of the existing situation

In Peru WASTE works with a large Dutch banana supplier, who imports fairtrade and organic certified bananas to supply supermarkets in Europe. On the small plantations, every banana bunch is covered with a plastic bag to protect the fruit from insects and mechanical damage. During the harvest of the bananas, the used bags mostly end up on a garbage dump or are littered alongside the roads.

In order to find a solution to this waste problem the existing situation was fully assessed:how much plastic is generated, of which type, how much is collected and how much not, is it a clean material, etc,?

 2. Identification of recycling options

Secondly, we identified already existing recycling activities and found out if there is a market for the amount of plastic we had identified.

 3. Developing a business plan to collect and recycle plastic waste

The third and most important step of the process was to develop a viable business plan. In the case of the plastic waste generated on banana plantations, we developed a business plan jointly with the local manufacturer of the bags who was more than willing to recycle the used bags. The plan was successfully submitted to an investment fund.

Soon the recycling plant will start operating and as such will need the supply of raw material (used plastic bags). By giving a value to the plastic waste, the 3000 banana producers producing for the Dutch banana supplier, will be interested in collecting, storing and selling the waste and generate more income.

Want to learn more about changing waste systems and waste management?

 

Do you have questions or ideas for collaborating? Contact Sophie van den Berg, solid waste expert and plastic recycling adviser at WASTE <svdberg[at]waste.nl>