Technical manual on the recycling of waste plastics in developing countries

Pierre-François Bareel ISF Project engineer

Ingénieurs sans Frontières - Ingénieurs Assistance Internationale Rue D'Edimbourg, 26 - 1050 BRUSSELS - BELGIUM

Collection "Technical Manuals"

Manual created by ISF, with the support of the Directorate General for Development Cooperation (DGDC)

© Ingénieurs sans Frontières - Ingénieurs Assistance Internationale 2002 Rue d'Edimbourg, 26 - 1050 BRUSSELS - BELGIUM

I want to thank Eric Pirard, Jerome Bindels, Vincianne Gillard and Lison Hellebaut of Ingénieurs sans Frontières -IAI for the confidence they have shown in letting me writing this book. This guide would not have been possible without the help and participation of many people, and in particular: Roger Tchuente (ICRP, Cameroon) and Sebastien Willerval; Gery de Broqueville (Asmae) and the scavengers of Mokattam (Egypt), Jean-Christophe Maisin, Thierry Dainville, Therese Stillman, Bolivar Castro (Volens SOS-PG) and their partner DIA-AC (Cuernavaca, Mexico); Claudel Tsimba (Vie Montante, DR Congo), Jean-Claude Lambert and Fabienne Windel (Criff), George Micheels (FN Herstal), Roger Loozen (CODEART), André Frisayé; Verele de Vreede (Waste consultants); Edmundo Alfaro. I would also like to express my gratitude to Yves Beguin (ISF-IAI) for its contribution in writing Chapters 2 and 5 and Philippe Gods for the quality of his illustrations. Finally, thanks to Ariane for his advice, his proofreading and support during the long evenings writing.

This guide has been produced by ISF BELGIUM with the support of the Directorate General for Development Cooperation (DGDC). Reproduction and translation of short extracts are allowed without prior permission provided the source is cited. The photographs in this guide have been generously provided by different organizations (Annex 1). No reproduction may be made without authorization. For any request, contact ISF which will put you in contact with the people concerned.

Why recycle plastic waste ?[edit | edit source]

Waste management is an important issue for all countries in the world. Among household or urban waste, there is a significant part of plastics (2 to 12% by weight) present in the country. Moreover, this share is very large given the low density of these materials.

While plastics have many qualities in technical terms, they have a disadvantage of size related to their elimination. Empty, they fly away with the first blow of wind and cause significant visual pollution. We finally find them everywhere (along roads, in parks,...). Even worse, during heavy rains, they flow into the drains likely to obstruct them and prevent the flow of water. This can cause flooding of varying severity.[1] Finally, certain methods which consist of burning these wastes can have severe consequences when these are achieved without mastering the technique (sufficient combustion temperature, smoke treatment, air pollution, toxic fume inhalation, severe burns,...)

Problems of water flow due to waste plastics in a stream in Kinshasa (RD Congo, 2003)

Still, the recycling of waste is possible and, when properly conducted and when local conditions permit, it can become an economically viable activity, generating incomes and creating jobs. This activity is however not as obvious as it appears. This is mainly due to some misunderstanding of these products, because of their great diversity and because of the different possible treatments.

To whom is this guide adressed ?[edit | edit source]

In his book "Small-scale recycling of plastics" (1984), Jon Vogler was the first author who summarized collected information on the recycling of plastics in the developing world. His work was updated by Inge Lardinois and Arnold van de Klundert (Plastic Waste, 1995). Based on field experience, these two books have the credit of having uncovered the mode of operation of the different possible methods. However, their literature does not allow the direct implementation of the described processes. They are intented for development organizations or local decision makers in order to demonstrate the potential of recycling plastics into usable material and the potential of waste management as a whole. This guide is more technical in nature. It attempts to describe the essential steps one by one to allow to execute a project, adapted for local conditions. It also draws attention to the most important aspects so as not to lose sight of the viability of the project.

Overall, this book will be useful to anyone seeking answers to the following questions:

  • What are plastics? How to recognize them ? How to recycle them ?
  • What information should I gather before undertaking a plastic recycling project ?
  • How to choose the most appropriate method of recycling ? Where to find the necessary equipment ? What are the investment costs ?
  • How to implement selective recycling systems? What can we reuse ?
  • What are the main tools for the processing of plastics ? How do they work?
  • What is the market for recycled plastics?
  • What are the questions to be asked to ensure the economic viability of a project? How to avoid failure of the project?

This guide is available to people wishing to undertake a recycling activity in a country with low and medium incomes. Experience shows that the profitability of these initiatives depends heavily on socio-economic and geographic factors which are, in these countries, favorable. Some practices are already well introduced in certain regions. The more experienced reader is therefore refered to any paragraphs of interest.

All the details and intricacies of recycling plastic can not be handled in these few pages. Also, although all conventional recycling streams are represented, only two are given in detail. The choice fell on regeneration (production of pellets) and injection molding of small artisanal pieces. These techniques are probably best suited for small-scale projects hereby allowing the building of products with added value. Moreover, the socio-economic aspects are only adressed if their inclusion is considered crucial for the sustainability of a project.

This guide does, however, provides no solution for the complete eradication of plastic bags who are the main visual pollution. The problem with these is they are very light (little amount of material) while recycling requires at least the same working hours as other waste. It is therefore difficult to make recycling economically viable. Solutions, which are not detailed in this guide, however, exist. This is the case when manufacturing various objects by hooking down strips of plastic bags which are sorted, washed and cut. These simple techniques, which require little investment, are covered in the manual "Récupération et transformation artisanale des sachets de plastique usagés" by Inge Van Hove, published by ENDA Tiers-Monde.[2]

This handbook will appeal to women groups searching for lucrative activities and to teachers who want to educate children in the problematic of plastic waste. It describes the original methods of recovering and recycling used plastic bags to make a large range of finished, commercially vendable, as well as balls, purses and beach bags.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. The severe floods in July 1998 in São Paulo have been attributed to many plastic films that have prevented the draining of storm water into the Rio Tiete
  2. Récupération et transformation artisanale des sachets de plastique usagés, par Inge Van Hove, Olivier Genard, Workshop Art-Utica, Enda Tiers Monde, BP 3370 Dakar, Senegal
FA info icon.svg Angle down icon.svg Page data
Authors KVDP
License CC-BY-SA-3.0
Language English (en)
Translations French
Related 1 subpages, 11 pages link here
Aliases Plastics recovery manual 1
Impact 743 page views
Created November 10, 2009 by KVDP
Modified December 5, 2023 by Felipe Schenone
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