Innovative plastic sorting and reprocessing solution

Despite the political attention and large commercial potential of separation and recycling of waste plastics, the recycling of plastics from households is only done to a limited extent today. In 2013 it was estimated, that about 440,500 tons of plastic waste was gathered in Denmark a year. Out of these about 310,000 tons were incinerated, while about 131,500 tons were shipped abroad for processing and resale. Therefore, CLEAN started to investigate the potentials of creating a market for sorting and reprocessing of plastics from Danish households, so that is not necessary to send Danish plastic abroad. CLEANs own innovation model has been used to develop an innovative tender of plastic waste from Danish households and comparable industrial plastic waste.

The CLEAN Innovation Model

CLEANs innovation model is used in cases where challenges are so complex that the existing market cannot provide a solution that is desirable. The innovation model has four steps: 1) Identification of challenge, 2) Innovation platform, 3) Innovative tender & 4) Implementation.

In 2013 (after identification of the challenge) CLEAN established an innovation platform (appendix 2), in order to identify if there was a market potential for a Danish sorting and reprocessing solution. The innovation platform concluded that there was a clear potential, but also two main barriers: a lack of an overall supply of plastic waste from households and companies, but also uncertainty concerning the resale of the reprocessed plastic.

Industry impact and proces for tender

In 2015 CLEAN applied for funding to facilitate an innovative tender process (competitive dialogue), where public and private partners meet during the tender process to negotiate the terms of the tender conditions. We received funding from Region Zealand and Markedsmodningsfonden (Danish Business Authority).

From 2016-2017 CLEAN has used the innovation model to gather 16 contracting authorities, consisting of 10 waste companies, five municipalities and The Capital Region of Denmark. Overall, the household plastic from 39 municipalities and comparable industrial plastic waste from all the hospitals in the Capital Region were put out to tender. This means that a total amount of 18.000 tons of plastic is offered to a consortium that can deliver a best-of-art solution that can ensure a more effective sorting than seen on the market today. Eight consortia (from all over Europe) applied for prequalification and four of these were chosen to participate in the tender process. This shows that there is a big interest from the European recycling industry for tenders of this kind.

On September 14 2018, the tender conditions were sent to the prequalified consortia and CLEAN received final bids on November 9 2018. Now CLEAN and the contracting authorities are clarifying, optimizing and specifying the incoming bids, and therefore details about the final bid/solution cannot be provided in this text.

What we can say is that, through the establishment of a new solution for plastic recycling, we expect that the winning consortium will make extensive investments and that an unspecified number of jobs will be created. Through the process, the contracting authorities expressed that today they do not know what is actually happening to the plastics that are sent for recycling abroad. Therefore, they demanded that the new contract will include traceability and give proof that the plastic is actually recycled and made into new products. 

How the tender proces has helped CLEAN and the ecosystem

The innovative tender has helped CLEAN solve one of its finest tasks as a cluster: to create an arena for dialogue and development between a wide range of different partners. By using the competitive dialogue as tender process, we have been able to create a room for dialogue, where innovation and co-operation has been in focus. This means that perspectives from both public and private partner have influenced the final tender conditions and it is created so both parties can see themselves in the tender material . CLEAN has experienced that clusters fit in perfectly in tenders based on dialogue because of their ability to stay politically and technologically neutral, and therefore it is natural for clusters to participate as a neutral and mediating facilitator.

The innovation model is one of the ground pillars of CLEAN’s innovation projects. This is the third time CLEAN uses the model (previously: City Data Exchange & Recycling of Construction Waste) and every time it is used more experience is gathered, and this is valuable information that will be used in many innovation projects forwardly. To have a project like this, where an innovative solution for recycling of plastics in Denmark is developed, is a major milestone and can be used as a reference point for other clusters and other organizations in the future.