Published:19 Nov 2018
Plastics are being manufactured globally at a rate exceeding 335 million tonnes annually and 8.3 billion tonnes have been made since the 1960's, with 4.9 billion tonnes accumulating in landfills or in the natural environment. The leakage of mismanaged plastics into rivers and oceans is now globally obvious and impacting the lives of birds and sea life. The recycling rate of manufactured plastics is only 9% and there is pressure to reduce the level of wastage and to dramatically increase the level of recycled plastics in short and long term products. This will involve stringent and tightly controlled recycling processes so that the recycled plastics can displace virgin plastics, especially in short lived applications such as food packaging. This article reviews the technologies and criteria that can be used to achieve food grade quality recycled plastics and novel ways of overcoming long standing gaps in recycling related to black plastics and identifying prior food grade usage. The boost in recycling efficiency through the use of these technologies will not only address the plastics wastage problem by creating a circular demand via higher recycled content, but also make plastics recycling technically more efficient and profitable thereby ensuring wide and long term adoption of recycling practices.