Innovation: modern recycling techniques for a developing Europe

Research has suggested that currently, Europe is not reaching its capacity when it comes to recycling plastics. Only 50% of Europe’s total usable plastics are sent to recycling plants to be used in the future, which means that another 50% is being sent to landfill sites all across Europe and the UK.

It’s not just Europe that could be doing more to recycle old plastics. Across the rest of the world, between 22% and 43% of all plastics are sent to be recycled. However, attitudes towards plastic waste and how it should be recycled are slowly starting to change.

By 2020, the EU 28 have agreed that all member states must recycle 45% of all plastics by 2020, and this figure should rise to 60% by 2025. Although the net cost of this initiative is set to be between 700 million EUR to nearly 1.6bn EUR by 2020, the long-term benefits to both the environment and economic engagement by the public and business, will inevitably offset these costs.

Together with O’Brien Waste Recycling Solutions, providers of skip hire for recycling purposes, we assess the businesses who are already taking the initiative. By investing in methods and technologies that help to benefit the environment by recycling plastics and other materials, businesses are now recognising the importance of recycling when it comes to the environmental longevity of our planet.

Recycling ocean plastics to make new clothing

Ocean acidification, global pollution, and the plastic pollution of marine wildlife is all contributing towards the degeneration of our oceans and the animals that live within them.

The sports clothing brand Adidas is looking to change this with their range of sportswear that is made from recycled plastics derived from the sea. From swimming shorts to running shoes, it’s clear that this type of investment in recycling is an innovative and modern way of engaging the public in purchasing products that are derived from recycled materials.

By doing so, the clothing brand is aiming to minimise the amount of ‘virgin plastics’ that are being distributed throughout the globe, and within their own supply chains.

Patagonia, another reputable clothing brand, are also aiming to reduce the amount of virgin plastics within their own production and supply networks. Synthetic fibres that makeup many types of clothes are not typically biodegradable, and therefore have low recycling rates.

Many are made from petrochemicals, which cause sustainability issues that are associated with these materials. To counteract these problems, Patagonia has recycled 82 tons of their own clothing since 2005, incorporating them into their new clothes where they can. As well as this, Levi Strauss have taken a customer-orientated approach by encouraging those buying jeans to wash them in cold water and donate them when they’re no longer wanted.

Composite Decking

Our gardens are naturally produced spaces that make the most of the great outdoors, so why should the materials we use disrupt these natural environments? Composite decking is now being used as an alternative to regular decking, as it is an environmentally friendly alternative to using virgin woods from forests.

By combining sawdust from reclaimed wood and recycled plastics from various sources, which include plastic shopping bags, newspaper sleeves, dry cleaning bags and food storage bags, composite materials are created when these materials are brought together. The average 500-square-foot composite decking structure is typically made up of 140,000 recycled plastic bags. This means that anyone looking to make home improvements to their garden can do so in an eco-friendly way by reusing plastic bags that would traditionally go to landfill.

Modern hotels and offices

Architects are aiming to build structures of the future, with many looking to establish how new buildings can be made from old structures. Shipping container conversions are becoming a popular movement, and many are capitalising on how using an old container can be used to make something that is exciting and new.

The ContainHotel in the Czech Republic is made up of two containers either side, supporting a longer container that goes over the top. This innovative design brings guests from around the world – demonstrating that once a material or structure is used for its original purpose, it can be used again for something entirely different.

If the UK was to invest in recycling plastics in accordance to EU guidelines up until 2025, alongside other initiatives to reuse and repair old materials, we’d face an overall cost of 220 million Euros. However, this type of investment is said to create 7,500 direct jobs by 2020, and 12,000 jobs by 2025. What’s clear, is that if Britain is willing to invest, then the benefits to both the environment and job security will grow as investment increases.




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