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Giving 'second life' to 'single life' plastic

17 November 2017

​There is much talk about recycling of plastics within the cleaning sector and how to encourage the recycling and re-purposing of plastics from bin liners, chemical packaging and polybags. Increasingly, we are seeing pioneering solutions in how to create second life from single life plastic, but there is still much more to be done, writes Mark Jankovich, CEO of Delphis Eco

Plastic waste continues to dominate media headlines and corporate sustainability policy across the cleaning trade in a bid to enhance best practice. Our screens are increasingly filled with distressing pictures of ocean plastic and the destruction this has caused to the environment and to marine wildlife, (which inadvertently consumes plastic and subsequently returns it into the food chain).  

Cleaning operators and procurement departments are becoming increasingly aware of the unpalatable facts that the world is indeed, awash with plastic. What is less commonly known is that only 5% to 7% of virgin plastic is recycled, which means that at least 93% goes to landfill, gets burned or lands up in the sea where it takes over 450 years to biodegrade. It is estimated that over 8 million tonnes of plastic is dumped into the ocean each year – that’s a dumper truck's worth per minute. The problem is mounting and collectively, we have to take responsibility.

That is why, it is now more important than ever for us all to challenge suppliers, manufacturers, facilities managers, consultants and government to show willing, if not demand – even through legislative purpose if necessary – that more plastic is recycled and repurposed. Our sector, the cleaning and hygiene industry, has a pivotal role to play.  

Recycling used HDPE plastic

Although many said it couldn’t be done, we have spent five years working with specialist waste collectors to recycle used HDPE plastic, in the UK, into granules, which we ourselves now use to create packaging – in 100% pure form across all our packaging needs.

We’ve created a down-stream demand for used HDPE plastic and proved that our 100% PCR Plastic – a world’ first – is fit for purpose and can be extended to many more applications. For example, bin bags, polymers, chemical packaging and so much more. The process has been arduous and hit many challenges along the way, but represents a long awaited ‘closing the loop’ breakthrough in the use of HDPE plastics.  

The magic word in this is the application of 100% PCR plastic. Yes, some cleaning chemical manufacturers are incorporating PCR into their packaging, but this continues to be at very small levels, below 10%, with pledges being made for a decade or more ahead, which still only reflect small levels of PCR use.  

Right now – corporates and government are behind the curve. The issue needs to be embedded high on their agendas to realise that consumers want recycled / up-cycle plastics, and to drive, through legislation if necessary, a shift in the manufacturing approach to ensure a closed loop supply cycle. Cleaning operators need to be calling on their suppliers to act NOW to make a difference and reduce the damage that is being done before it becomes irreversible.

We, as a company have reduced our carbon emissions by 500 tonnes in the first year alone based on trading projections. Just imagine what a large global brand could achieve by following suit in addition to the reduction in plastic waste.

The journey is just beginning when it comes to creating a movement to increase the world’s level of recycling from between 5% - 7%, to 10% and beyond. Our breakthrough is showing the world that there can be a second life for single use plastic.

We would ask the cleaning sector to join together to embrace this key issue in line with high profile campaigns to drive awareness and change across consumers themselves – who in turn will be increasing their expectation of operators in delivering best practice and sustainable options.

If we all work together – we are stronger!  Remember the old adage “it takes many raindrops to make an ocean”...