Latvia develops polymer granule exports

Investing €2.8 million, the plastic packaging recycling plant Nordic Plast has opened an automated recycling line. It produces polymer granules for export. As a result, recycling capacity in Latvia could grow by 30%, Latvian Radio reported on January 20.

Rudīte Vesere, director of the Environment Department of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, said that there was a slight increase in the amount of packaging recycled for recycling each year.

“Glass processing is basically not taking place in Latvia. It would certainly be a big challenge to do this, especially given that glass is a valuable material, glass is produced from quartz sand. On the other hand, paper storage is complicated, because if the paper gets wet, it loses its value, its recycling capabilities will be reduced. In Latvia, we recycle plastic packagings, such as PET bottles, and various films. We cannot provide such a flow that recycling companies can develop because, for example, if we are talking about the Eco Baltia group, the two companies that work with plastic recycling are also bringing some of their plastics in from other countries,” said Vesere.

Māris Simanovičs, Chairman of the Board of Eco Baltia, the largest environmental resource management group in the Baltic, spoke about the new recycling line:

"At 'Nordic Plast' we already have two plants that process film into granules. With this investment and delivery desk, and sorting automation, we will significantly improve the quality of incoming material. This is a polymer granulator that sounds maybe a very simple machine, but actually, is a very complicated apparatus in which, under high temperatures and pressure, incoming polymers are melted and filtered out. By passing through this extruder, at the end we get relatively high-quality granules from which all unnecessary impurities have been removed. Consequently, they are valid for reuse.

"We export these granules at 99%. The largest markets are Lithuania, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Poland, also Germany, France," Simanovičs said.

Remo Merijs-Meri, Professor of Material Science and Applied Chemistry at Riga Technical University, estimated that the use of secondary raw materials – polymeric granules allows companies to reduce energy consumption.

“Of course, if we look at the European level, we have room to grow and develop these recycling volumes here to be equivalent to European countries like Germany, Sweden. Worldwide, there is a tendency to use a variety of renewable raw materials for the production of existing materials. At the same time, the European Green Deal can allow it to increase the proportion of plastic from renewable raw materials in the long run,” the professor said.

The Director of the Environment Department Rudīte Vesere pointed out that the Ministry is currently working on a legal framework to pay a tax on natural resources for the use of plastics that cannot be recycled for a second time.

“One is that we return this resource to economic circulation and the other is that the processing companies are creating new jobs [..] And as a result, we also create this added value for the material that is produced. And all of this is a benefit for the economy,” explained Vesere.

She also pointed out that the introduction of a deposit system and a deposit fee had led the public to better sort the waste.

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