Construction is underway to increase the capacity of a South Iceland plastics recycling center six fold, Vísir reports. When the expansion to the Pure North Recycling centre in the town of Hveragerði is completed, the company says it will be able to recycle all of the recyclable plastic produced in Iceland.
Pure North Recycling began to recycle plastics in 2015 and is the only company in Iceland that recycles plastic completely. Plastic processed by their facility is turned into a raw material that is then sold to companies that make new products from it. For example, plastic recycled at Pure North is used in the production of plastic poles and pipes in Iceland. Most of the company’s recycled material is, however, sold abroad.
Looking forward, CEO Sigurður Halldórsson says that Pure North would like to sell most of its recycled plastic domestically, “and thus close the cycle here at home.”
“Just steam, water, and electricity”
“We’ve actually developed new methods that atypical for recycling plastics by using geothermal heat in the process,” Sigurður explained. “So we’re not using any chemicals or anything like that – just steam, water, and electricity.” He explains that geothermal steam is used to heat up the ambient air around the plastic, which dries it out after washing. The resulting steam is then used for washing the next batch of plastic.
Pure North hired the consulting firm ReSource International to conduct an assessment of its recycling process and compare its carbon footprint with that of companies using similar recycling processes abroad. ReSource found that Pure North creates a smaller carbon footprint when it imports plastic waste from Europe to recycle than when Iceland exports its plastic waste to European companies for recycling.
“We’re the only country in the world that can have a retroactive carbon footprint for plastics recycling,” Sigurður said. “You can basically offset the carbon for your farming or whatever with the recycling of plastic, so it’s a real revolution.”
“Every nation has to bear the responsibility”
Pure North now recycles many kinds of plastics, but Sigurður says there need to be changes in the way that plastic from households and businesses is sorted so that the company is better able to take more consumer plastic.
“We’re making big strides – we’re now first and foremost looking at the biggest categories, for example, like the plastic used on hay bales. There are some two thousand tonnes a year that come from what we are recycling.”
The company also recycles a certain amount of packaging plastic, but Sigurður says that there needs to be better sorting practices within the home in order to maximise the company’s output. Many different categories of plastic are currently getting mixed together, which creates problems at the recycling facility.
Countries all over the world face major challenges to their recycling processes now that countries such as China are no longer accepting plastic waste from countries in the west. For his part, Sigurður thinks this is a good thing.
“Now every nation has to bear the responsibility. People can’t just send it to Asia and look the other way.”