On the outside, the bucket of Wijzonol paint by Van Wijhe Verf does not seem very different from its competitors: about the same size, equally sturdy and -not insignificant- there is paint in it! What is striking is the colour: in addition to all the white paint buckets, the Wijzonol bucket turns beautiful dark grey. This dark color ‘betrays’ already a bit what is so special about this paint bucket: it is made of 100% recyclate!

Recyclate?
Recyclate, yes! The raw material for plastic products, made of waste plastic. In the form of a grain. This recycling is the counterpart of so-called ‘virgin granules’: grains of new, non-recycled plastic. Of both kind, only you like beautiful, sturdy paint buckets. If you opt for recyclate, you are opting for sustainability: you do not pump extra oil for the production of the plastic, a you will reduce CO2 emissions by about 80%. But then every paint bucket producer still opts for recyclate, you’d say. But unfortunately, the virgin granules is still the big favorite. Why you might ask? Mainly the color…

No white buckets

“In the past, you could get all the colors of recyclate with us, as long as it was black,” jokes Gerrit Klein Nagelvoort, manager of business development at Veolia Polymers, manufacturer of recyclate. “But nowadays I have all kinds of colors: blue, green, cappuccino!” But no white. A that’s the problem. Because what color are most paint buckets? Right! White! “The customer wants white recycling, because paint buckets are white. Or because they want to add a tan themselves. But I will never get a crystal clear white recycling can from a colourful mix of waste plastic.”

Grey, but durable

As a B Corp  (quality mark for entrepreneurs with people, environment and society as a starting point), Van Wijhe Verf was already working on making it more sustainable.   Of course, the paint bucket itself could not be left behind. According to Marlies van Wijhe, general manager of Koninklijke van Wijhe Verf, that it could not remain the average white bucket was not a simple problem: “What difference does it make that a paint bucket is not white? Entrepreneurs who don’t want white are looking for ways to not become more sustainable!”. They asked Dijkstra Plastics, the paint bucket producer, to make the production process a suitable for the recyclate of Veolia. As a result of this threeheaded Overijsselse collaboration: a sturdy, super durable grey paint bucket!

From consumer to producer, back to consumer

Just a few things: Veolia produces recyclate from waste plastic, Dijkstra Plastics turns the recyclate into a paint bucket and Van Wijhe puts is the Wijzonol paint in. But that’s not the complete picture: along the way the plastic passes a number of ‘stations’. Remy Notten, Commercial Director of Dijkstra Plastics explains: “Did you empty the paint bucket? Then you take him to the environmental street. From there, all plastics, a so also our paint buckets, go to a plastic reactor. There the plastics are separated, shredded  and washed by kind. Then Veolia comes around the corner: he buys these plastic chips again and makes it a recyclate.”

These chips are only part of what comes into Veolia’s waste plastic. The vast majority, about 70%, of the packaging plastic comes from the PMD (plastic, metal and beverage cartons) behind the people’s homes. The PMD waste goes to a sorting plant where the waste is separated by type: metal, beverage board and four different types of plastic. Klein Nagelvoort: “One of those four types of plastic, polypropylene, we buy in large bales. In these bales you can still see the butter tubs and salad trays. Everything is still a bit dirty and smelly, therefore everything is first thoroughly shredded and washed. ” So if you buy a paint bucket with Wijzonol at the local paint shop, there might be a butter tub, which was in your fridge a while ago, incorporated. And so the circle is made!

Making the circle round

That round circle, that’s what it’s all about. Notten: “We have to go to the fact that there is no more waste, that all the waste we produce is again the basis for new raw materials. The linear system ‘buy, throw away, burn’ is simply not sustainable.” There are several reasons why the expiry date of our linear economy has now passed.  For example, the harmful effects of our waste economy can already be seen everywhere on beach and in oceans. Moreover, the burning of waste plastic causes an enormous amount of CO2-emissions. Klein Nagelvoort is therefore very clear: “The oil tap has to be closed. Period.” Another problem is the plastic waste. “The quality of plastic is so high that it just doesn’t end if you don’t burn it. All the plastic that was ever made, and never burned, still roams around somewhere,” added Notten. And that while the techniques are available to make a nice new product!

Wallet before environment

Why then still pump oil, burn plastic if is sustainable alternatives are? The color of the recyclate passed by for a while, but there’s more. “Money. It’s all about money,” sighs Klein Nagelvoort. “Recyclate was always something just below the virgin price, but because of the low oil prices and the corona crisis virgin plastic is now cheaper. Many of our customers follow the money, so unfortunately a switch to new plastic.” Whether this trend is temporary or permanent depends on whether there will soon be regulations requiring plastic producers to incorporate a certain percentage of recycate into their products. Provided that the plastic is used, food packaging may in many cases not contain recyclate, partly because of food safety.

Virgin may be cheaper, but Dijkstra Plastics emphatically opts for recycling for their buckets with non-food application. Notten: “Since we started with the recycled buckets for Van Wijhe Verf, the use of recyclate has become part of our business. About 60% of our packaging goes to the food industry and the use of recycled raw materials is not yet allowed. That’s where we  still use  virgin  plastic. But for the remaining 40% we are in the process of  converting as much as possible to recycling!”. At Koninklijke Van Wijhe Verf, sustainability is also strongly intertwined in its business operations. The secret to their success? Consider sustainability as something that can be fun. Van Wijhe: “People should not consider sustainability as a burden, but rather to see the fun of it. That’s why I’ve put together a Green team within my company, with employees who get excited about this. Together we organize competitions, lunches and talk sessions on sustainability. And in this way, it leaps over to the rest of the employees.”

Don’t treat your waste like waste

The choice of recyclate or virgin plastic is not just the producer’s choice: even consumers could make her vote. How? “If you have the choice between two paint buckets, similar in quality and price, then opt for the durable variant,” says Notten. That way you only give the circular economy a boost. But there are more ways in which the consumer can contribute. Klein Nagelvoort: “The cleaner the paint bucket used, the more likely it is that it will not end up in the incinerator. So empty your bucket properly, a don’t ruin it by throwing in the gravel and dirt from your swept pavement. The same goes for, for example, used coffee cups: don’t press a cigarette butt in it, so we can still reuse it.” In short: do not treat your waste as waste. After all, waste doesn’t exist in a circular economy!

 

This article was created from a collaboration between partners of Dutch Circular Polymer Valley: Polymer Science Park, Nature and Environment Overijssel and OostNL. Commissioned by the Province of Overijssel.

 


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