Worldwide governments have responded to Covid-19 pandemic crisis making available for their countries billions of economic stimuli, but citizens, NGOs and other organizations are requesting these recovery calls to be aligned with an economic transformation more resilient against future global risks. At the same time, plastic industry is increasingly at the spotlight and the voices demanding plastics to be circular have never been louder.
It is a fact that plastic is an important and ubiquitous material in our economy and daily lives. It has multiple functions that help tackle a huge number of the challenges our society is facing. In packaging, for instance, plastics help ensure food safety and reduce food waste, and in pharma, they are necessary to meet this industry’s sensitive requirements (temperature, humidity, etc.).
However, too often, the way plastics are currently produced, used, and discarded fails to capture the economic benefits of a more ‘circular’ approach and harms the environment. Thus, there is an urgent need to tackle the environmental problems of the production, use and consumption of plastics. For its part, the European Commission is aiming to make all plastics packaging placed on the EU market either reusable or recyclable in a cost-effective manner by 2030.
In this context, many initiatives can be built in the plastic packaging area that, at the same time, will help in the Covid-19 crisis recovery. In particular, the investment opportunity in plastic collection, sorting, and recycling infrastructures stands out from the others.
Investments in physical infrastructure and technology upgrades are needed to radically improve recycling economics, quality, and uptake. High-quality recycling processes within Europe could supply up to 60–70% of the material input needed for plastics production, hence, collection, sorting, and recycling infrastructure offer an attractive investment opportunity to scale up high-quality materials circulation and enable a secondary market.
To address the recycling challenges ahead, MANDALA is already developing a twofold solution. First, the development of a mono-material packaging that offers the same benefits as its conventional multi-material counterparts, and second, the development of technologies that make it easier to separate and sort multi-material packaging. In this sense, MANDALA project is expected to facilitate the separation of multilayer multicomponent films currently used in food and pharma packaging and recover the individual components after use and return them to the beginning of the cycle in a circular manner. In particular, MANDALA project aims to achieve a 30% decrease in end-of-life costs by the implementation of a delamination step in the recycling process, being highly competitive in the market.
Ultimately, MANDALA project will directly contribute to the economic recovery from COVID-19 crisis boosting an innovative recycling solution and, hence, enhancing global circular economy!