Recycled Plastics in your ICT Products: The State-of-Play
Industry has been experimenting with the use of recycled plastics in electric and electronic equipment (EEE) since the early 2000s. Where post-consumer recycled material was once considered novel, recycled plastics are now found in a variety of ICT products as companies start to use recycled plastics as part of voluntary agreements/certifications or broader green marketing initiatives.
The imaging equipment industry, for example, has signed a voluntary agreement (VA) in the framework of the Ecodesign Directive, which requires producers to declare the use of recycled plastics to customers since 2015. The VA was signed by 15 producers that account for more than 95% of all office and household imaging equipment sold in Europe. Declaration requirements of the use of recycled plastics are also in the ECMA 370 Eco Declaration.
As the use of recycled plastics is already gaining momentum in some sectors – now presenting a good opportunity to share existing industry best practices for addressing the challenges in using recycled plastics in ICT products.
Currently, the Circular Economy and the development of secondary raw material markets are high on the European agenda, and are attracting member state support. At present, however, there are a number of challenges yet to be overcome for recycled plastics to be more widely used. For any product, material sourcing and selection is one of the most important business decisions. For ICT products that are subject to complex legal requirements it is even more critical to ensure that all materials, including recycled plastics, meet multiple requirements for hazardous substance screening, safety and quality assessments, security of supply, economic viability, cosmetics, performance and consumer preference. While recyclers have made technical progress in the past few years, it is still not easy to find sufficient supply of high quality postconsumer recycled plastics that meets all the technical, economic, and aesthetic requirements.
The idea for this paper emerged from a series of industry workshops and visits to recycling plants. It is clear that the widespread use of recycled plastics in all ICT products remains a challenge. However, with a combination of economic incentives and technical progress, the ICT industry could make a meaningful progress. This paper aims to showcase current best practices of early adopters to inspire other producers and also to highlight ongoing issues to policy-makers. After an initial assessment of the market size and expected trends, the paper briefly looks at opportunities and challenges in using recycled plastics and presents a number of industry case studies.