Achieving Circular Economy through sorting technology

The current global economy is based on a linear model of production and consumption, where raw materials are used to manufacture products, which are subsequently sold, used and finally discarded as waste; this continuous cycle has become unsustainable for the environment.

Tom Eng, SVP and Head of TOMRA Recycling

According to figures from the United Nations Global Resource Outlook 2019, the world population has doubled, the extraction of materials has tripled and the Gross Domestic Product has quadrupled. The latter signifies that the demand for resources has not slowed down recently, but done more harm to the planet as the 90% loss of biodiversity and the increasing extraction of natural resources signal.

tom eng circular economy

From the above arises the need to adopt a new economic model, whose concept at its most basic level is rather simple: once used, valuable materials can be recovered when reaching the end of their life and be processed to create a new product. Within this restorative and regenerative approach, products, components and materials maintain their maximum value and stay in active use. Keeping materials continuously in the economy preserves and enhances natural capital, optimizes resource yields and minimizes system risks.

Based on the principles of this circular economy model, companies in the recycling sector are working on innovations and technological advances to offer even greater opportunities to both society and the environment. For instance, the recycling industry is demonstrating that it is technically possible and economically profitable to produce goods from 100% recycled plastic, thereby breaking with traditional assumptions that recycled products are of inferior quality or less durable.

TOMRA is a key driver in the transformation to a circular economy over the last 50 years and has developed high quality sorting technology and equipment, thanks to which valuable plastics can be recovered from waste streams, further processed and recycled to virgin-like materials.

Technologies such as TOMRA’s SHARP EYE and Laser Object Detection demonstrate the significant progress being made towards 100% recyclability, enabling a more efficient removal of any impurities and contamination and, as a consequence, a cost-effective creation of plastics and products from 100% recycled materials. In the development and optimization process of these technologies and solutions, where a huge and experienced team comes together to make the most of the plastics value chain and build a future where plastics never become waste.

As an impact leader, TOMRA is committed to take post-consumer plastic packaging waste management to a new level worldwide and set itself the goal to collect 40% of all post-consumer plastic packaging for recycling and recycle 30% of all post-consumer plastic packaging in a closed loop by 2030.

Redefining the economic system towards a fundamentally regenerative one, where resources are continuously given a second, third and many more lives, is possible through cross-value-chain collaboration and the provision of both technology and innovative solutions.

Originally published in Ambiente Plástico.