How to reduce the weight of new taxes by introducing a smart plastic upcycling strategy in a company


September 11, 2020

Beginning from 2021, every European company will be obliged to pay a tax on non-recycled plastic packaging. In this article, you’ll find out more details about this new law. Furthermore, we’ll explain why plastic upcycling can be your best strategy for better plastic waste management.

The EU Plastic Ban & The New Circular Economy Action Plan

The need to reduce plastic reduction has been on the agenda of the EU for years now. Only in 2018, Europe has produced 62 million tonnes of plastic. And while many global companies - such as McDonald’s, Coca Cola and Iceland to name a few - joined the efforts to fight for the environment, the problem has not been solved yet. 

Now, the EU has taken more radical steps to limit plastic use
Following the recent ban of plastic-made straws, the new regulation passed on the 21st of July 2020 introduces a new plastic tax. From the 1st of January 2021, for every kilo of plastic packaging waste which is not recycled, the newly-formed tax will amount to 0,80 EUR.

What does it mean for business owners in the EU?

In three months, European companies will have to decide whether to invest in waste management (recycling and upcycling might be solutions for this) or incur the additional cost imposed by the regulation.

This EU plastic ban has two main goals. One is encouraging companies to use plastic in a more conscious life cycle and the second being the overall reduction of plastic used in the European Union. This isn’t, however, the only important action taken against the flood of plastic. 

By the end of 2025, European companies need to recover at least 50% plastics contained in packaging waste. 

Furthermore, the EU Commision has informed earlier this year about its circular economy strategy, which includes several key areas, including:

  • Empower consumers to help them benefit from the “right to repair”
  • Introduce circular design as a principle among European producers (leading to more durable, easy-to-process and easy-to-repair products)
  • As mentioned within the section about the plastic ban, the EU will ban single-use plastics, plastic bottles
  • Focus on the industries with a high potential of circularity, including packaging, batteries, textiles, construction and food

All of the above means that your company will be soon challenged with devising a strategy for dealing with waste. How can you do that? How can you reduce the tax imposed on non-recycled plastic waste? 

The most obvious solution would be to start recycling all the plastic waste your company produces. However, there are some limitations to the plastic recycling technology. 

Read on to find out why plastic recycling isn’t the solution to all of our problems.

A short story of plastic recycling

plastic bottles recycling - Deko Eko image

A simple definition of recycling is reprocessing waste in order to turn it into useful materials and products. Various types of waste can be recycled - from scraps of metal to paper and plastic. It’s the latter one that constitutes the biggest challenge.

Plastic can be recycled through one of two methods - mechanical and chemical recycling. The first method - mechanical recycling of plastic - means that pieces of the material are chopped and melted. 

Chemical recycling is a more advanced method, and means breaking down polymers into their basic components. 

Both methods often lead to phase separation of plastic. When it occurs, two different types of plastic create separated layers, like oil and water. The result is a recycled material which is not as structurally strong as the initial one and therefore has very limited applications.

On top of that, in order to conduct the process of plastic recycling, a certain amount of new plastic needs to be added to the mix. Frankly, even plastic recycling on its own needs plastic production on a small scale.

Another aspect of plastic recycling is its economical downside. Facilities which deal with plastic recycling, are forced to send a fair share of waste to landfills, mostly because dirty plastic contains debris, and biological waste which is often hard to wash off, and it is not profitable to do so. The profitability of that process depends on the type of plastic too. It’s not the recycling companies being picky - it’s the overall complexity of the process set against the profitability of their business.

On the other hand PET - the popular type of plastic used in the production of bottles - brings good results, most plastics are not easily recyclable. And the fact is that despite the technology innovations brought into the industry, plastic recycling is not the most sustainable option either. 

What is the best alternative to plastic recycling then?

The benefits of plastic upcycling

As an entrepreneur, you can imagine how difficult it would be to cross out plastic as a resource. In fact, the EU plastic ban, as well as the new plastic tax are not aimed at removing plastic. The goal is to change the way we use it and the size of its production.

As mentioned, the goal is to give an incentive to either recycle or upcycle plastic. The EU is incentivizing the switch to a circular economy, and more conscious choices made by both producers and consumers. As Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, said: 

To achieve climate-neutrality by 2050, to preserve our natural environment, and to strengthen our economic competitiveness, requires a fully circular economy. Today, our economy is still mostly linear, with only 12% of secondary materials and resources being brought back into the economy. Many products break down too easily, cannot be reused, repaired or recycled, or are made for single use only. There is a huge potential to be exploited both for businesses and consumers. With today's plan we launch action to transform the way products are made and empower consumers to make sustainable choices for their own benefit and that of the environment.

One of the ways to make this brighter future come true is to invest in plastic upcycling. 

What is plastic upcycling?

Plastic upcycling is a set of solutions that turn the material into new, more valuable items through mechanical processes, and with the use of innovative machines. Among the processes that constitute parts of plastic upcycling, you will find extrusion, 3D printing, shredding or sheetpress. 

Unlike recycling, upcycling results in items that can be used in offices and households, as well as common spaces such as parks, streets, schools. Examples of those can be found in the latter part of this article. 

Furthermore, upcycling adds value in this process. For instance, plastic bottles are processed into furniture or items of everyday use, meanwhile recycling only allows to melt the plastic and reuse it in a similar way. 

Finally, recycling requires an industrial size of operation. Incinerating waste, as well as segregation of waste require lots of space and mechanical complexity. Contrary to that, upcycling can be conducted with much smaller machines, and does not require that industrial scale. It fosters creativity and a rather small-scale approach. There are even ways, in which households and offices purchase machines enabling them to upcycle on their local scale.

The eco-friendly aspect of plastic upcycling

If you’re worried about the impact of plastic upcycling on the environment, worry no more. Introducing a strategy of plastic upcycling reduces the tragedy of landfills growing exponentially around the world, and encourages a less linear approach to the way we produce in general. 

Even as a small business owner, your help matters and can be directed at collaborating with local communities, schools or other institutions. Plastic upcycling switches the focus from production to circularity, and therefore could reduce the overall production of many plastic-made products.

What are some of the items produced in the process of upcycling?

Examples of plastic upcycling

As explained above, plastic upcycling allows you to create various items. That’s where Deko Eko can be your helpful partner in plastic upcycling. Thanks to our experience, we have devised a range of upcycled products, created by talented designers from all over the world. These items can be generally categorized as:

  • Small architecture pieces for local communities 

Including park benches, pieces of outdoor furniture, bird feeders.

Public benches from upcycled plastic - Deko Eko image

  • Everyday-use items

Ranging from furniture and lamps to smaller items such as pots for plants, phone holders, bowls, and baskets.

  • Gadgets and business gifts 

They include key rings, USB sticks designed from melted plastics, pen holders, on-desk clocks and many other marketing and trade marketing gifts.

All of these can be created from plastic waste that your company donates to Deko Eko. After scrutinizing the materials, our experts develop an upcycling strategy - process called smart matching - in which we find designers and items that can be the result of the collaboration.

Deko Eko - an upcycling project with Coca Cola

Here’s one of the projects that Deko Eko has worked on with Coca Cola.

As a massive global player, Coca Cola pursues the goal of becoming a fully sustainable company. In the beginning of 2020, the company kicked off a project aiming at upcycling.

Deko Eko suggested creating a pop-up store with a unique collection of products made from branded waste - PET plastic bottles, pieces of Coca Cola cans, glass bottles etc. 

Plastic upcycling project with Coca-Cola - Deko Eko imageThese were the materials used to produce designer watches, bathroom baskets for cosmetics (interestingly, they were made with the use of 3D printing technique), as well as kitchenware pieces made from recycled Coca Cola bottles. The next step within this initiative is to introduce these pieces to the regular shop of Deko Eko. 

Upcycling project for Coca-Cola - Deko Eko image

Over to you

As a business owner, you need to keep up with the latest laws and directives concerning circular economy. The EU is incorporating its plans of banning plastic, as well as bring circularity into as many industries as possible.

However, incorporating plastic upcycling in your office is not only a way to avoid additional taxes. Upcycling can be a great way to engage your employees, build company culture and even generate buzz around your brand. Along with the regular upcycling strategy, you can come up with PR-oriented stunts that will promote circularity and your business together.

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