A third of plastic packaging incinerated instead of recycled

Plastic waste for recycling. Photo: DutchNews.nl

Some 30% of plastic, metal and drink carton waste is mixed with other litter and burned instead of recycled, figures from packaging industry body Afvalfonds Verpakkingen have shown.

According to recycling norms, waste bags that contain more than 15% of residual waste end up in the incinerator.

Since 2010 many local councils have been urging people to use transparent bags or containers for this “PMD” recyclable waste which can then be reused or made into different products.

Contaminated PMD waste is “a worry”, Afvalfond Verpakkingen spokeswoman Hester Klein Lankhorst told the Telegraaf . “We want new packaging to contain as much recycled material as possible but that means it has to be clean to start with,” she reportedly said. “In 2021 we found that the PMD waste contained an average of 28.9 percent of other types of waste. That is a lot.”

Most people want to do the right thing, Klein Lankhorst added. “We need a consistent collection system, where the rules in one local council are the same as in the next.’”

Despite information campaigns, waste such as plastic toys, and fruit nets, which get caught in the machinery, and packaging containing food residues still end up in the PMD bag or container, she said.

Sometimes residual waste is apparently put in with PMD on purpose because many local councils charge for residual waste and not for PMD. Inspectors in Aa en Hunze in Drenthe found diapers, foam, paper, food and building waste in PMD containers.

“Many people do their best to separate waste but the system is obsolete and the environment is not improving,” public economics and administration professor Raymond Gradus told the paper.

“Sorting machines are much better at separating PMD waste than people,” he reportedly said. “They can determine if the residue of yogurt in the carton is a problem or not, for instance. The result is less pollution and more recycling.”

Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Eindhoven already have sorting machines in place.

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