Belgian firm stretches to film recycling

If you’ve driven through the countryside, you will very likely have seen polyethylene stretch film on silage bales in the fields. But what happens to this film when it is no longer needed?

Previously difficult to collect and separate, the film has been hard to recycle. But more than half a million tonnes of it is used every year within the EU, so the potential for recycling is great.

Writing in Waste Management World, Dr Jörg Walters describes one Belgian company’s attempts to recycle this film, which is invariably contaminated with silage – and, being thin, is difficult to clean, separate and shred.

But the film is valuable, being made of high-grade low-density polyethylene (PE-LD) and linear low density polyethylene (PE-LLD). There is keen demand for these polymers, whether in raw form or recycled.

Knowing that it is worth recycling the film, Soreplastic, a Belgian company, began doing so in 2011. It processes 20,000 tonnes of it every year, taking it from the agriculture industry and converting it into “repellets”, which can be used as a raw material in industry.

The process encompasses several stages, starting with the separation of contaminants such as soil, metals, and twine. After that, the film is shredded, washed and dried, which makes it suitable to be extruded into repellets. These are then sold to manufacturers, which convert them into new products, including new agricultural film.

Recycling Lives is delighted to see such advances happening in the recycling of agricultural film for industrial applications, and we wish Soreplastic every success in continuing their work. It is hardly surprising that the demand is there for them to be processing such large volumes, because businesses are increasingly seeing the benefits of a circular economy.

At Recycling Lives, we have developed our own manufacturing process to ensure plastics can be reused. We have a system that is capable of processing any plastic polymer, and it turns the waste plastic into strong beams that are used in the building industry as an alternative to wood or concrete.

We have developed a similar process to deal with waste glass, too. In this, glass is converted into tiles, which provide a sustainable substitute for ceramic or synthetic tiles, and make an attractive feature in any kitchen or bathroom.

The value of recycled materials is not limited to their role in industry, either; they can help charities to thrive. At Recycling Lives, our commercial operations fund a social welfare charity that supports homeless people to find work and accommodation, and get their lives back on track after experiencing severe hardship.

If you are an organisation looking to boost your green credentials, and support charity by using materials such as our plastic beams and glass tiles, contact us!