Plastic recycling gets a boost

12/11/2021 | 2 min read
Stephan Laske

A huge amount of plastic ends up being incinerated instead of making it into the recycling loop. At the same time, high-quality recycled plastics are not always available – and in some cases, they are even more expensive to use than virgin material. Turning plastic waste into a recycled material that can be reused in products of the same or higher quality remains a challenge to this day. This is due to varying material quality, and thus far there has been no standardized description of all the different types of recycled polymers and their quality levels that classifies them based on the depth of data available. That situation is now set to change with the new DIN SPEC 91446 (“Classification of recycled plastics by Data Quality Levels for use and (digital) trading”).

DIN SPEC 91446 makes it possible to classify recycled plastics according to four different levels of data quality. The new standard is intended to make consistent communication easier for stakeholders along the entire value chain. “Common language and clear definitions are essential to create a functioning loop and, in turn, build a circular economy for plastics,” says Dr. Hans-Josef Endres from the Institute of Plastics and Circular Economy (IKK) at Leibniz University Hannover, who headed the consortium working on the development of DIN SPEC 91446 along with his colleague Dr. Madina Shamsuyeva. “The new DIN SPEC is available to everyone active in the plastics sector – users, processors, recyclers, and disposal companies. It can also be used by researchers and policymakers.”

Closing the loop

DIN SPEC 91446 provides comprehensive specifications on the quantity and quality of data for material classification. It establishes a system to classify recycled plastics according to the data depth of their description, thereby removing existing obstacles to their industrial use. It also defines how recycled materials and recycled content in plastics can be clearly identified and labeled. The standard sets out basic rules for terms that are unclearly defined or used in different ways in the context of inputs, recycling processes, and recycled plastics as usable materials.

Standards for recycled plastics are vital for high-quality industrial use – every party involved in the value chain needs reliable information about what is in the materials. That is what will make an international market for recycled materials possible. The new standard provides an important foundation for closing the loop with respect to plastics and promoting widespread and cost-effective use of high-quality recycled materials,” explains , an online marketplace for recycled materials and plastic waste feedstock.

Christian Schiller, initiator of the DIN SPEC and CEO of Cirplus GmbH

Although DIN SPEC 91446 will initially facilitate the trade in and use of recycled plastics, it also offers scope for application-specific standards in the future. In addition, it is intended to form the basis of a European standard. An application is due to be submitted soon.

Entire value chain represented

DIN SPEC 91446 was developed by a consortium of companies and research institutions. The 16 members represent the entire recycling value chain. Greiner Packaging and Polifilm Extrusion GmbH joined the effort as plastics processors. Also involved were sorting system manufacturers Steinert GmbH and Tomra Systems, waste recyclers Der Grüne Punkt – Duales System Deutschland GmbH and Remondis Recycling GmbH & Co. KG, and recycling companies MKV GmbH Kunststoffgranulate and MRS Materials Recycling Solutions GmbH. The associations working on the standard were the Federation of the German Waste, Water, and Raw Materials Management Industry (BDE), and the German Engineering Federation (VDMA). The research institutions represented were the Institute of Plastics and Circular Economy at Leibniz University Hannover and the Institute for Plastics Processing in Industry and Craft at RWTH Aachen University (IKV). The remaining participants were the testing laboratories at the Kunststoff-Institut Lüdenscheid and SKZ – Testing GmbH, mechanical engineering company KraussMaffei Group GmbH, and Cirplus GmbH as a procurement platform.

DIN SPEC 91446 is available to download for free from www.beuth.de.

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