Design Competition: Scenario no. 3

Sustainable uses of plastics waste

The scenario

  • Waste materials are valuable resources. Currently in Europe huge quantities of waste are being buried in landfill sites without making the most of their energy potential.
  • Recycling is one important way to make valuable use of waste materials. However there are other important uses, such as re-using them or using them as an energy source, since plastics are solidified oil and therefore a valuable resource.
  • This is particularly true for the plastics family of materials. There are many different types of plastics, and their different properties means that end-of-life plastics can be used in many different ways.

The challenge

Identify the most environmentally-beneficial uses for different types of end-of-life plastics.

Questions to consider

  • What is the environmental impact of landfilling plastics waste? What volume of CO2 emissions could be saved by recycling that waste? Or by using it as fuel?
  • What proportion of waste is recycled vs. used as energy in your country? What is the situation across Europe as a whole?
  • What types of plastic waste can you identify (food packaging, beverage bottles, insulation, car components etc.)?
  • What types of waste plastics are most frequently recycled?

Supporting resources

Conserving natural resources via coal substitution (English)
This document outlines one of the new recovery options for household waste: coal substitution.

Where Used Plastics Should Be Heading (English)
A new study shows that the “divert from landfill” strategy for post-consumer plastics is the most eco-efficient solution.

Materials World (English)
The EU aims to meet 20% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020.