The plastic is pelleted so that it can be reused as raw material.
The plastic is pelleted so that it can be reused as raw material. Photo: NC Miljø.

First to recycle plastic from organic waste

Ragn-Sells-owned NC Miljø in Denmark is first to recycle plastic from organic waste. Advanced sorting and a pioneering washing technology enables the sorted plastic to be pelleted and re-used as a raw material, instead of incinerating it as was previously the case. The convenience store chain Netto is the first to use the recycled plastic and thanks to the new technology can offer its customers circular bin-liners, made from the company’s own organic waste.

18 Apr 2019

NC Miljø, which specialises in organic waste, was acquired by Ragn-Sells in Denmark three years ago.

– Today we are biggest in Scandinavia for organic waste, handling about 80,000 tonnes a year. NC Miljø receives waste food and organic waste from municipalities, i.e. from households, from the service sector and from food shops, says Massimo Forti, CEO of Ragn-Sells in Denmark.

Two years ago a collaboration was initiated with a number of customers, with the aim of recycling more from organic waste.

– We promised ourselves and our customers that we wouldn’t just utilise the organic waste, which becomes biogas, but that we would also recycle the packaging. What is unique about our technology is that we can separate the organic waste from the packaging in the treatment process and individually remove the different fractions so that they can be recycled, says Kenneth Kaasgaard, sales manager at Ragn-Sells in Denmark.

New technology to wash the plastic

Basically all organic waste that NC Miljø receives is enclosed in some type of packaging; plastic, paper, glass or metal – fractions which are separated in NC Miljø’s treatment process. Circular solutions already exist for materials such as glass and metal, and they are moreover easy to recycle. However, the approximately 3,000 tonnes of plastic that is separated every year in the process has previously gone for incineration and has thus been a burden on the environment.

– When we started this journey with our customers, our objective was to be able to remove the plastic from the organic waste, to wash it and recycle it, which had never previously been done. It turned out to be a major challenge.

The problem previously was that the plastic was too contaminated with organic waste to be re-usable, despite the fact that plastic from organic waste maintains a high quality as food is packaged solely with virgin plastic raw material. 

– What we did was to produce a new technology to wash the plastic in NC Miljø’s factories so that we obtain a tolerably pure plastic fraction from which it is possible to make new products, Massimo Forti says.

Pelleted and becomes raw material

In order to make the recycled plastic sufficiently clean that it can become new products in a circular flow, a collaboration was initiated with Dansk Avfallsminimering, which in turn developed further steps in the washing process.

– The plastic was divided, washed and sorted in several different steps without needing external heat and with minimal water consumption, thus keeping costs and Co2 low. This technology ensures that the plastic is sufficiently clean that we can use it again, Kenneth Kaasgaard says.

In the next step, the plastic is pelleted so that it can be recycled as raw material.

– The aim of this is to reintroduce the plastic into the circle again.

Success for bin-liners made of recycled plastic

Bin-liners have been in production for the last few weeks that are made of plastic recovered from organic waste and which Netto in turn sells in its shops. The bin-liners are manufactured in Sweden by Tripolast.

– The circle is closed and this is also a major success for Netto which has sold out of its bin-liners as they have been so well received by the customers. We are now looking at what other products we can make from this plastic, including for Netto.

According to Kenneth Kaasgaard, collaboration between several different companies is the key to the success. Ragn-Sells Denmark and NC Miljø are now holding discussions with other companies that are interested in using the recycled pelleted plastic.

– It is a major challenge, because even though we can collect, sort, wash and recycle the plastic, we must have a market for it. It is therefore important to get politicians, society and designers on board and to get them to understand the importance of using recycled plastic in new products, either 100 per cent or together with virgin materials, Kenneth Kaasgaard says.