WRAP (the Waste & Resources Action Programme)

Domestic mixed plastics packaging: waste management options


Courtesy of Courtesy of WRAP (the Waste & Resources Action Programme)

Mixed plastics is a term that covers all non-bottle plastic packaging sourced from the domestic waste stream and includes rigid and flexible plastic items of various polymer types and colours that are typically found in the household waste bin. It excludes plastic bottles and non-packaging items.

There is approximately 1 million tonnes of domestic mixed plastics packaging waste arising in the UK each year and this tonnage is growing. With an increasing range of materials being recovered in domestic waste recycling systems, mixed plastics packaging is one of the most visible remaining components of the domestic waste bin.

There is a need to develop sustainable waste management options for non-bottle mixed plastics packaging. A number of Local Authorities are already accepting a wider range of plastics in their domestic recycling systems although the end markets are under developed in the UK.

The aim of this project was to assess the feasibility of recycling domestic mixed plastics packaging through an appraisal of available recycling technologies, related financial implications and environmental benchmarking. Process designs were developed to determine if mixed plastics packaging can be recycled to a market specification in a financially and  environmentally sustainable way. As part of the environmental benchmarking, these process designs were compared to alternative waste management options.

Input raw material
This project used mixed plastics packaging from the domestic waste stream. This included rigid and flexible plastics packaging items of all polymer types and colours that are typically found in the household. The trial material was sourced from operational sorting facilities from which the majority of bottles and other recyclables had been removed. This feedstock still included some contamination from non-packaging plastics and other residual materials. The proposed process designs in this study were based on handling a generic mix of the input material of composition shown in the table below.

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