Increasing the circularity of plastics
Tackling the end-of-life application of plastic based products is major challenge. Single-use plastics are already under scrutiny by the European Commission, and certain products will likely be banned for consumer use as a result. However, demand for plastic will not disappear overnight. Ecomatters has joined forces with partners across Europe in the flagship initiative eCircular to explore new ways for increasing circularity in plastics. The advent of new digital technologies offers new opportunities for setting-up novel end-of-life approaches for plastic material flows.
Year: 2018-2021 (ongoing)
Client: EIT Climate-KIC
Partner: University of Bologna, Wuppertal Institute, Montanuniversität Leoben, Lund University, TU Delft
Digital technologies foster the traceability of materials and products and allow for accurate information flows on product and material qualities and availability. This reduces the fragmentation of knowledge and regulation. In addition, market transparency can be improved, search costs reduced, and the effectiveness of processes can be enhanced. Digital transformation can enable a quicker transition towards circularity in plastics and linear value chains can be made circular. For instance, developing blockchain based end-of-life plastic collection schemes or implementing innovative business models to improve plastic material optimization and waste prevention.
The EIT Climate-KIC eCircular Flagship
The eCircular Flagship is a multi-year project, which is financed through the European cleantech innovation community EIT Climate-KIC. It brings together a strong network of research, academic, and business partners across Europe. The preliminary outcomes of the project indicate a trend toward increasing the recyclability of products, and show that digital technologies can help companies making claims around the provenance of recycled plastic that is used.
Ecomatters has joined forces with Wuppertal and GS1 Deutschland to validate market appetite for blockchain as an enabler of circular strategies. In 2019 two workshops have been arranged with representatives from the cosmetic and detergent producing industry, retailers, recyclers, and blockchain experts. During these workshop new use-cases have been explored around:
- Setting-up end-of-live plastic collection schemes using blockchain technology
- Exploring new circular business models and logistics optimization strategies
- Consumer oriented tokenised plastic waste prevention
The outcomes show that blockchain offers quite a bit of promise, but the concepts it could support regarding tackling the end-of-life of plastics are deemed relevant for mid-to-long term. For now, most parties are content with increasing the recycled content rate used in their products and to increase the ability to sort their packaging material after use. Only logging claims around the source and material provenance of recycled content are of more immediate interest to the stakeholders. It would therefore make sense to build on this use case to create the backbone for a cross-stakeholder information sharing platform around recycled content. Once established, this can be expanded to encompass other aspects of plastics circularity.
Looking for partners...
Beyond the partnerships engaged in the current activities, eCircular is always looking for partners interested in helping create shared targets and priorities, and developing commitment mechanisms and awareness for business, academia and politicians within plastic material flows. Together, we will explore, foster, and evaluate instruments to improve waste prevention in the plastic life cycles and circularity itself. The eCircular project is also gearing up its focus its efforts towards pioneering regional approaches, more specifically in Germany, Italy and Austria.
Whether you are a business, a public authority, development agency, trade association or from an academic or circular economy-oriented NGO, we would look forward to working with you on innovative solutions for plastic use optimization, implementation of digital technologies and circular business models. For more information, or if you are interested in joining us in the eCircular Flagship, please contact Eelco.
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