To illustrate how recycling HDPE could have a bigger impact on the global plastics recycling industry, recent tests showed that HDPE containers could be recycled at least ten times without diminishing its properties.  Here is why it matters.

High-density polyethylene (or HDPE) plastic is one of the most versatile and popular of plastics aside from PET and PP. It is used in both rigid forms (containers) and flexible forms (bags). It is recyclable in both these forms.

According to the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) and American Chemistry Council (ACC), one of the primary barriers to increased plastic bottle recycling is that too many consumers continue to be unaware of the significant usefulness, demand and value of recycled plastic, including HDPE, as well as PET and PP.

Helping consumers and municipalities understand the value of recycled HDPE would go a long way toward increasing HDPE recycling rates. Much of HDPE’s value lies in the fact that it can be recycled and reused for a long time without diminishing its properties.

In Europe, ESE World B.V., which later became part of RPC Group, has carried out the first practical experiment to demonstrate that HDPE can be recycled at least ten times and further processed under controlled conditions.

However, one question that has remained unanswered until now was how often HDPE could be processed, ground and reprocessed via injection moulding without fundamentally changing the structure and characteristics of the material.

ESE, therefore, established a controlled experimental model at its production facility. After each step, the material was analyzed in cooperation with external research institutions. The project was led by ESE’s plastics specialist and scientist, Jeanette Köhn, PhD.

The test demonstrated for the first time that the plastics injection moulding and shredding processes have, in principle, no property-altering effects on the material over the entire period of reuse. With the service life of containers being around 10 to 20 years, this result means that the availability of material for sustainable production from the same recycled plastic is secured for at least 100 to 200 years.

The findings of this series of experiments now allow manufacturers to engage in more targeted research and to develop further future-oriented methods.

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