Zero-waste circular economy of plastic packaging: The bottlenecks and a way forward

April 29, 2024


Interest in recycling is higher than ever, with the recycling of plastic packaging waste being a significant concern for the general public and governments worldwide. However, the rate of plastic packaging waste recycling has stagnated over the past five years. This implies current strategies are insufficient and new approaches are required. We evaluate the present situation and highlight the bottlenecks that are limiting efficient recovery of plastic packaging waste using currently available systems. Difficult to recycle thermoplastics such as polystyrene and poly(vinyl chloride) are not needed in packaging, which we propose should be based on poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET), polypropylene (PP), high-density and low-density polyethylene (HDPE and LDPE respectively). Furthermore, we draw attention to the opportunity for keeping PET/PP packaging as a single waste stream, and leaving HDPE and LDPE as a standalone stream, to enable efficient plastic separation of individual types of plastic for mechanical recycling to achieve a zero-waste circular economy for all plastic packaging.


Novakovic, Katarina et al. “Zero-waste circular economy of plastic packaging: The bottlenecks and a way forward.” Sustainable Materials and Technologies (2023): n. pag.