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Innovative logistics for plastics

This pilot project as part of the realCYCLE project made possible by the Migros Pioneer Fund is being designed and implemented together with players in the plastics value chain. The overarching theme of realCYCLE is to understand and align the entire value chain of plastic packaging as a cycle. The systemic prerequisites and framework conditions for scalability are being investigated and concrete possibilities identified to enable a comprehensive and sustainable plastics circular economy in Switzerland.

Key issues

The guiding question of the project is: Are innovative logistics concepts the key to a sustainable circular economy for plastic bottles?

Along this question, various questions arise:

  • Does the use of reverse logistics by Swiss Post lead to an ecologically and economically sustainable collection of plastic bottles?
  • Can innovative logistics concepts significantly increase the return of plastic bottles compared to the current collection from retailers?
  • How can rural areas be connected to national waste management networks?
  • What collection rates can be achieved through a pick-up collection (from households) and what is the population's opinion?
  • To which regions of Switzerland could the logistics model tested here be extended? What ecological and economic consequences would this have at the national level?

Aim of the pilot project

A sustainable plastics circular economy requires high collection rates of recyclable fractions. In this pilot project, innovative logistics solutions in the field of plastics recycling are therefore being tested and their scalability examined.

While plastic bottles can already be returned to retailers throughout the country today, the collection rate is low. In rural and remote communities, including very small ones, these collection channels are also underutilized because the logistics are very time-consuming and therefore inconvenient for consumers. The aim is therefore to test whether collection volumes can be increased with customer-friendly collection systems and whether collection leads to an ecological benefit compared to the current reference scenario. In addition, the pilot project is testing whether Swiss Post's existing logistics can be used for the "last mile", i.e. reverse logistics from the consumer to a larger collection center, thus creating meaningful synergies.

As part of the "Innovative Logistics" pilot project, we are focusing on selective plastics collection. On the one hand, processing in Switzerland is possible with this collection stream, and on the other hand, the recyclability has been significantly better researched and the ecological advantages already proven. The risk of obtaining a poor quality recyclate due to diversity is also much smaller. Plastic bottles are also collected through retailers, but collection rates are (still) relatively low. It is not clear whether beverage cartons should also be collected in addition to plastic bottles.

What we are currently working on

We are currently working on setting up the return logistics for the "recycling sack" from the municipalities. In particular, the use of synergy logistics is being investigated with the aim of generating as little environmental impact as possible through transport.

Pilot phase 1 in Reinach BL
The first pilot phase starts in Reinach BL, which is supplemented by a population survey. The Reinach pilot project was initiated by a motion of the residents' council.

On June 3, the implementation of the first pilot project started in Reinach BL. Since then, postmen and women not only deliver letters on their rounds, but also collect the recycling sack. The recycling sack filled with plastic bottles and beverage cartons can be deposited directly at the mailbox, from where it is collected by the postman or postwoman on the delivery tour. The collected sacks are then shipped to Frauenfeld by internal postal logistics and thus without additional journeys, where they are collected by the local company Müller Recycling AG for processing in its own sorting plant. So far, this innovative logistics in synergy has worked without any problems: so far, all journeys have been made in synergy. This means that no additional transports had to be made for collection from households.

A first evaluation will be carried out in spring 2022. The project was extended by the municipal council and now lasts until May 2022.

Quality control and sorting analysis
An initial quality control and detailed sorting analysis at Müller Recycling AG in October 2021 showed that the proportion of the target fraction (plastic bottles and beverage cartons) was a pleasing 70%.

Survey of the population of Reinach
In order to evaluate the pilot project, the perception of the population and their experiences are also very important to us. Therefore, we are currently conducting a survey in which the population of Reinach BL is asked for feedback and suggestions for improvement of the pilot project.

Pilot Project Partner

  • Waste advice Upper Valais
  • Community Reinach BL
  • Swiss Post AG
  • Müller Recycling AG / Association IG Recycling-Sack
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