Plastics recyclers in the Middle East say the industry sector is still in its infancy there.
As in many parts of Europe and the U.S., there is a lot of “negative hype” about plastic shopping bags in the Middle East, says Bilal Effendi of United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based plastics compounder and scrap plastics re-processor Paklite.
Speaking to attendees at the 2014 Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference Middle East, Effendi said the negative environmental portrayals are being addressed by a Middle East plastics recycling sector that he described as “just developing.”
Regarding plastic bags as an environmental nuisance, Effendi commented, “The material is not the culprit—the negligence in disposal is.”
Effendi noted that while the paper shopping bag was introduced in the 1860s, the plastic shopping bag did not come along until 100 years later. Thus, he said, it should not be surprising that plastic recycling “is still in its infancy.”
Although it’s still learning to walk, Effendi said the plastics recycling sector in the Middle East is poised to grow. “There is still a lot to be done in reclamation and end use [but] today, real strides are being made.”
Craig Halgreen of Abu Dhabi-based polymers maker Borouge said the company is among those exploring “sustainable plastic waste management solutions in the UAE.”
Borouge makes polymers for many applications, including water pipes, auto parts and packaging. Halgreen said the recycling of packaging (which accounts for one-third of plastics use worldwide) is especially critical since is it disposed of quickly and its use is “growing phenomenally as we have urbanization” around the world.
“When you think of litter, you think of plastic bags,” said Halgreen. He noted that in Abu Dhabi—which has as many as 18,000 illegal landfills—disposed of plastic that does not become litter is much more likely to be landfilled than recycled.
Halgreen praised the recent efforts of companies like Bee’ah in Sharjah, UAE, for recycling larger amounts of plastic and said Borouge was sponsoring litter cleanup campaigns that were yielding about one-third recyclable plastic.
Thomas Probst of German Recycling federation BVSE provided a description of the more evolved plastic recycling sector in that nation. The nation has some 100 plastic scrap re-processors employing some 5,600 people, he told conference attendees.
He said some plastic scrap is turned back into pellets or flakes and then into similar products (such as PET bottles to new PET bottles); another stream of plastic scrap is converted into composite products such as plastic lumber or pallets; and a third collected stream is converted to fuel in a plastics-to-fuel process.
Probst says Germany currently recycles plastic at about a 43 percent rate and that every ton collected and recycled is good for the environment. One metric ton of recycled PET “spares you three tons of CO2” he remarked.
The 2014 Paper & Plastics Recycling Conference Middle East was March 4-5 at the JW Marriott Marquis in Dubai.