Tomra Sorting Recycling hosts global conference with a focus on plastics recycling

Earlier this month, leaders and influencers in the recycling and waste management industries convened at the TOMRA Leads Global Conference 2019 to discuss solutions to the problems posed by plastic waste. With the theme of ‘Recycling in a Plastic World’, the two-day event held in Sofia, Bulgaria, focused on trends and innovations throughout the plastic value chain. More than 200 delegates representing 31 countries were also given the opportunity to see at first hand how TOMRA Sorting Recycling’s technologies are recovering reusable materials from household waste at a new €40m plastics recycling plant.

This was the third TOMRA Leads Global Conference, a series of events designed to share knowledge and accelerate progress in recycling and waste management through keynote speeches, presentations, discussions and networking opportunities. The plant visit was made to Integra Plastics in the town of Elin Pelin, just outside Bulgaria’s capital city of Sofia.

Tom Eng, Senior Vice-President and Head of TOMRA Sorting Recycling, commented: “Our TOMRA Leads Global Conferences are proving to be a useful and popular forum for the exchange of information, ideas and best practice. The focus of this year’s event was on what steps can be taken to tackle the discarded plastic piling up at landfill sites, drifting in oceans and killing marine life. Our conference highlighted the vital importance of recycling plastic waste – and how, as well as benefiting the environment, it is also creates commercial opportunities.”

Expert insights into a wide range of issues  

On the second day of the conference, a number of high-calibre speakers shared expert insights into the direction of the recycling market, the circular economy and the role of virgin materials, the challenges in the plastics value chain and financial investment models. Speakers represented a broad spectrum of the global recycling industry and included recyclers, virgin material suppliers, packaging producers and independent consultants.

Plant visit shows TOMRA’s vital role in the circular economy

To witness plastics recycling in action, conference delegates were given a tour of Integra Plastics’ new €40m facilities on the outskirts of Sofia, which opened in February 2019. 14 TOMRA AUTOSORT machines are installed at the new plant, which employs 85 people. One of the AUTOSORT machines is combined with a TOMRA Laser Object Detection (LOD) system and two others have been specially developed for this plant, to separate out black flexible materials. The plant has the capacity to recycle 40,000 tons of mixed-colour post-consumer film annually.

Integra specialises in producing top-quality recycled low-density polyethylene (LDPE), high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene granules (PP). To see how this is achieved, conference delegates were shown Integra’s entire end-to-end plastic recycling process.

Initially, plastic waste arriving in bales, which are cut by large shredders. The shredded material moves along more than one kilometre of conveyor belts, where TOMRA’s machines filter out unwanted materials such as metal, glass, stones, paper, and wood. Next, the material is sorted, if desired, into six streams, by polyolefin type and colour, before the plastics are hot-washed. After washing and drying, the plastic flakes are finally cleaned of any remaining impurities, colours and/or materials through additional TOMRA units, before being forwarded for regranulation. The plastics are then compressed, melted, filtered, degassed, homogenised, and transformed into pellets.

At the final stage, the pellets are packed into one-tonne bags, ready for re-use in a wide range of applications. Integra is able to produce customised resin qualities, such as different material grades combined with different colours, making this plant unique and cutting edge.      

Moving forward

Speaking after the event, Tom Eng concluded: “This latest TOMRA Leads event was an ideal opportunity to review the progress that has been made globally in plastics recycling, and to explore what needs to happen now.

“Collection and recycling systems have a vital role to play in meeting the global demand for top-quality recycled plastic to replace virgin materials. We also need to address the widespread misconception that recycled plastic is an inferior-quality material. While tightening recycling legislation and setting new targets should be welcomed, it’s not enough. We need to convince brand owners that recycling starts at the design stage. By involving packaging designers in the recycling process from the outset, they will better understand the need to design products for recycling.”

Associated Businesses

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