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Closing the Plastics Cycle – A Review of Current Best Practice around the Whole Cycle...60 Seconds with Dale Rautenbach, Recycling Technologies

Dale Rautenbach, Recycling Technologies

Closing the Plastics Cycle, London, 2 July 2019,
Closing the Plastics Cycle, London, 2 July 2019,

​Ahead of the forthcoming Closing the Plastics Cycle seminar, we caught up with Dale Rautenbach, Systems Engineer at Recycling Technologies. Dale explained her role and involvement with regards to the seminar, critical engineering challenges, what she is looking forward to at the event and why it is important for industry professionals to attend.

Q: Could you briefly explain your role, involvement and experience with regards to this seminar?

Dale Rautenbach (DR): Today, the most widely recycled plastics are PET drinks bottles and HDPE milk bottles. There is an urgent need to recycle a comprehensive range of plastics including those currently considered ‘hard to recycle’, such as crisp packets, films, plastic bags and laminated food pouches, and which today end up in landfill and incineration. What the ‘hard to recycle’ plastics currently lack is a value to the re-processors and waste collectors - this is where Recycling Technologies comes in.

I am a Systems Engineer at specialist recycling company, Recycling Technologies, working on optimising the productivity of our core RT7000 technology and heavily involved in system design, plant integration, and commissioning, to fulfil Recycling Technologies’ mission of creating value from residual plastic waste.

Q: What are the main engineering challenges facing the industry at the moment and what are the most common issues you hear from colleagues?

DR: Today only c380,000 tonnes of recycling capacity exist in the UK out of the 2.3million tonnes of plastics placed on the market. Scaling to sort and recycle more plastics here in the UK and delivering the reliability and quality of raw materials required for manufacturing in the circular economy, are some of the engineering challenges faced by the industry.

Similarly, seeking optimal product and packaging configuration and polymer choice that considers ‘sustainability’ at the outset of the design process offers not only an engineering and design challenge but an exciting opportunity for the sector to lead on designing for recyclability and optimising recycling processes.

Q: What is the most exciting development in this field at the moment, either within your company or in the industry in general?

DR: An exciting opportunity for the industry, is the linking of environmental impacts to the choice of pack materials. Plastic is a popular choice of material for packaging as it is lightweight, protective and durable. These very factors improve the shelf life of foods and the fuel efficiency of transport, making plastic a valuable material in the war on carbon.

There is an equally exciting and unique opportunity within the current Government proposals to establish structural change along the plastics design, collection, sorting and re-processing chain and to close the loop by incentivising the use of materials with recycled content.

In addition to setting legal frameworks, voluntary agreements also play a part. The ‘UK Plastics Pact’ has gathered companies responsible for placing 80% of the food & drink packaging on grocery shelves, to pledge to achieve a set of targets for the sector which includes ‘ to achieve 70% recycling of plastics by 2025’. To achieve this aim, on shore in the UK, there is an urgent need for boosting plastic recycling capacity. Government policy reform coupled with promises from businesses to do more, will provide confidence for innovators and investors to help address the recycling capacity gap.

Q: What key things can attendees expect to learn from your presentation?

DR: Our vision is to change the story of plastic by creating a commercially attractive way to recycle a comprehensive range of plastics. The company has developed a ‘plastics -to-oil’ recycling process, built into a modular machine, the RT7000.

Attendees can learn more about the RT7000, the process and its role in Project Lodestar, an advanced Plastics Recycling Facility (a-PRF) designed in partnership with participants of the New Plastics Economy.

Lodestar is a valuable industry guide to dramatically increase recycling rates by combining mechanical and feedstock technologies and increasing volumes of collected waste by applying the convenience of ‘all plastics in one bin’ household collections. Lodestar places the achieving of the UK Plastic Pact’s ‘70% plastic recycling rate by 2025’, firmly within grasp.

Q: What other presentations or topics are you looking forward to hearing and discussing in more detail at the seminar?

DR: The extent to which plastics are recycled depends upon economic, political, logistical and technical factors – all of these areas are represented in the seminar.

Additionally, Lodestar and the UK Plastic Pact shows the extent to which collaboration is key to making the necessary advancements towards designing for recyclability and comprehensive collection and recycling infrastructure.

Q: What developments are you most interested in for the future and why?

DR: For the industry to significantly boost global plastics recycling rates which stand at just 12% today and to close the plastic loop, business as usual is not an option.

Feedstock recycling complements mechanical recycling and enables ‘hard to recycle’ plastics to be recycled for the first time. It also enables the chemical sector to use recycled plastic as standard feedstock in its processes to manufacture new plastics, including food-grade polymers.

Additionally, while we believe that profligate use of plastic in packaging should be eliminated, we also recognise the pivotal role necessary plastic can play in the war on food waste and cutting emissions. Looking at packaging through a ‘carbon impact’ lens, and providing evidence to this debate with Life Cycle Analysis, will be an important development for the industry.

Q: Why is it important for engineers, scientists and other professionals to join this seminar?

DR: The waste management, scientific, engineering, retail and manufacturing communities will benefit from hearing about initiatives, opportunities and impacts in moving towards a circular economy for plastics.

Engineers, scientists and designers have an exciting opportunity to re-shape the ‘dfx’ (design for x) process, to consider user experience, carbon impact and sustainability. As designers, the onus is on us to take up the reins to close the loop and design product and packaging for recyclability and give all packaging a second life.

Closing the Plastics Cycle takes place on 2 July 2019 at One Birdcage Walk, London.

Join this forthcoming event which will:

  • Deliver greater awareness around the whole plastics cycle
  • Showcase the latest solutions that are helping to manage plastics waste in the UK
  • Offer updates from industry as they seek to support the Circular Economy
  • Help educate those involved in the plastics cycle to consider stronger prevention methods.

To book your place, please visit www.imeche.org/plastics.

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