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Plastic packaging can be designed for recycling - Plastic Zero develops a guideline

Updated last: 25 June 2014

Recyclability of primary plastic packaging can be increased considerably by applying a handful simple criteria to the design. To honour this potential, COOP Denmark A/S, Dansk Supermarked, Arla Foods, Aage Vestergaard Larsen A/S, the Danish Technological Institute and the City of Copenhagen are jointly developing a guideline with simple criteria for design for recyclability of primary plastic packaging.

The cooperation around the development of the guideline:

  • Arla Foods, a global dairy company and a co-operative owned by dairy farmers. They have production facilities in 12 countries and sales offices in a further 30, with a total of more than 18,000 employees. 
  • Coop Denmark A/S, a consumer goods retailer owned by its 1.4 million members and with more than 36,000 employees.
  • Dansk Supermarked is likewise a consumer goods retailer with 1,200 stores in four countries and a total of 32,000 people employed in Denmark and further 9,000 employees in Sweden, Germany and Poland.
  • Aage Vestergaard Larsen A/S, a reprocessing company with specialty in regeneration, grinding, microgrinding, extrusion and compounding of plastics.
  • The Danish Technological Institute develops, applies and disseminates research and technologically based knowledge for the Danish and International business sectors.
  • EU LIFE + Plastic Zero project, City of Copenhagen, the capital municipality in Denmark.

Recycling of plastic packaging into new products saves virgin resources, saves energy and avoids negative impacts on the environment and climate.  Today 22, 3 % of all plastic packaging in Denmark are collected for recycling (Eurostat, 2011) but only around half of this is designed in a way where it can be sorted and reprocessed into a quality, where the recyclate is actually used for new products.

Through the Plastic Zero project it has become clear, that one barrier for improved recycling rates and for improved quality of reprocessed plastics is, that a considerable amount of packaging does not fit the current recycling technologies. It may be due to a design with composite materials (plastic as well as non-plastic), heavy colours or too many residues.

The overall aim of the guideline is to share the knowledge that it only requires few, simple criteria to improve the recyclability of plastic packaging. The guideline may become an important tool for procurement within the consumer goods retail sector that sells millions of products packed in plastic. Another objective is to have designers, manufacturers and the packaging industry to adopt the criteria for recyclability of plastic packaging. 

On 19 June 2014 a workshop with focus on design for recyclability and the use of the guideline was conducted in cooperation with ForceTechnology. Please refer to the program here:

The draft guideline indicates which criteria the packaging must meet in order to perform within four categories: High recyclability; good recyclability; uncertain recyclability and not suitable (unfit) for recycling.

Please refer to the ranking model below.

Design For Recyclability - Tabel To Be Incl In The News  

The ranking model comes with an annex that provides specific guidance on compatibility with respect to different plastic material compositions.

The criteria within the manual are in line with the ambitions within the flagship initiative under the Europe 2020 strategy - A resource efficient Europe and the EU Directive on packaging and packaging waste.

The final manual will be available on the Plastic Zero homepage July 2014.

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