Characterisation of source-separated, rigid plastic waste and evaluation of recycling initiatives: Effects of product design and source-separation system

Marie Kampmann Eriksen*, Thomas Fruergaard Astrup

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Recycling of plastic from household waste (HHW) is crucial in the transition towards a circular plastic economy. Plastic from HHW consists of numerous immiscible polymers, product types and product designs (e.g. colour, polymer separability), which often lead to considerable physical losses during sorting, and low-quality recycled plastic. Consequently, recycling initiatives have been proposed to enhance the quantity and quality of plastic recycling from HHW. To quantify the potential effects of such initiatives, a detailed composition of plastic waste is necessary. The aim was to provide such detailed composition of Danish source-separated rigid plastic waste, including information regarding the polymer of the main product component, product type, polymer design and separability as well as colour. The potential effects on recycled quantity and quality from implementing selected recycling initiatives were quantified and recommendations provided. PET, PE and PP made up >90% of the source-separated plastic and both food- and non-food packaging existed in all three polymers. In total, 10–11% of the plastic was black, and around 44% consisted of multiple polymers, of which one-third was non-separable. Initiatives improving product design for recycling will likely result in increased quantity of recycled plastic. By effectively separating food from non-food packaging, e.g. by introducing two bins in the households or politically aligning polymers and product types (all food packaging in PET and PP, all non-food packaging in PE), 39–63% of the waste could potentially be recycled in a closed loop into food-grade quality packaging. The overall highest benefits were reached by combining initiatives.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWaste Management
Pages (from-to)161-172
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Circular economy
  • Plastic recycling
  • Household waste (HHW)
  • System evaluation
  • Waste composition

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