The use and disposal of synthetic polymers in packaging and other applications has become a critical environmental issue, and one that we must control as a society.

Plastic waste management is an urgent priority for governmental authorities and industry producers and users across the globe. In order to help improve this situation, new legislation, regulations, taxes, use restrictions, recycling targets and mandates are being introduced around the world, such as those detailed by the EU Waste Framework Directive.

Of the various end-of-life options, recycling is the most energy efficient, that is why nations around the globe are introducing taxes and levies on synthetic polymer materials that are not from recycled sources.  But, how do you assess what ratio of a plastic material comes from a recycled source?

Original ideas to solve recycled problems

The academic team at the University of Manchester has developed a novel method (known as Recycled Content Reconnaissance or ReCon²) to quantify the recycled plastic content in a plastic product or packaging using a unique tracking marker technology. This methodology provides a rapid and reliable analysis method to determine and certify recycled content. The technique is standardized, can be used for a wide range of polymers including those derived from chemical recycling, is applicable across different business models and can be used by polymer producers, recyclers, compounders, converters, and brand companies.

The technique can be applied directly to a plastic material or product or a section or component of it and used as a quality control method. Within less than 5 minutes, the recycled content of the product can be reliably assessed accurately and precisely. The method can be expanded using a three-pronged analytical approach to minimize fraudulent imitations of recycled content.

This novel technique offers a fast, accurate and robust solution to quantify and certify recycled plastic content to complement the assessment of plastic packaging taxes and show conformity with the various, yet strict legal requirements.

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