European scrap plastic recyclers and processors have entered the electronic age by establishing a free-market ex-change for plastics recycling on the Internet. Joachim Eckstein, president of the Brussels, Belgium-based association of European Plastics Converters, said the system will foster standards and improvements in quality control and pricing of recycled materials. He announced the start-up of the service at the Interpack packaging conference May 8 in Dusseldorf, Germany.
``Lively competition is needed,'' Eckstein said. ``Such competition can develop only if prospective customers can communicate with one another on the large number of different recyclate grades available. This cross-frontier interaction between partners involved was made possible only by the Internet system.''
Offered on the Internet by the name RecyTrade, the system provides suppliers of plastics waste with 100 criteria by which wastes can be identified in detail. A menu guides users through a series of questions that help them characterize the wastes for sale, or the finished recyclates available.
Users can ask questions online to clarify unknowns about the material, and can identify would-be trading partners using the RecyTrade system. Each transaction made using the data on the service will cost the user 15 deutsche mark (about $9.75), and an individual can subscribe to the service for 1,000 DM per year (about $650), Eckstein said.
Once questions are answered, traders can contact suppliers or customers by Internet, telephone or fax and consummate deals.
The system differs from a similar system set up last year by the Chicago Board of trade, in that the CBOT system offers the chance only to trade in recycled high density polyethylene and PET, while the European system allows trading in all recyclable resin types. The European system also is accessible worldwide through the Internet, but the CBOT system is not, yet.
``We think that this system will increase the amount of recycling done in each country,'' Eckstein said in a telephone interview, ``because the recyclers will be able to identify others within the country who can be their trading partners. Before this, they might have simply gone to someone outside the country with whom they were familiar.''
Packaging makers applauded the system, and called for participation from Germany in particular to make the system work.
The German packaging ordinance, passed in the early 1990s, calls for all packaging materials manufacturers to be responsible for recycling the materials they produce under the system known as Green Dot. German participation could be crucial, since it is the largest producer of packaging scrap in Europe.
Under the Green Dot provisions, a quasi-governmental agency known as Duales System Deutscheland collects plastics packaging scrap and distributes it to recyclers in the country for processing into more packaging materials. Competition provided by the Internet system could help recyclers find supplies of waste material most suitable for them, and reduce for recycling material.
Eckstein also called for the waiver of a fixed quota for material recycling, proposed in an amendment in the European packaging ordinance. The measure, which affects all the member-states of the European Union calls for 25 percent of all packaging to be recycled.
Instead, Eckstein said, the Internet system will allow free-market forces to settle on a workable quota naturally, and will reflect more accurately end markets for recycled plastics.