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New investment in the research and development of plastic recycling at research institute NTCP


Sustainable solutions for improved plastic recycling receive a boost from the National Growth Fund programme Circular Plastics NL

Sustainable solutions for improved plastic recycling receive a boost from the National Growth Fund programme Circular Plastics NL


Heerenveen, April 11, 2024

There is an urgent need for innovations in the development and recycling of plastic packaging waste to promote the transition to circularity instead of burning these valuable materials. Because of NTCP's knowledge position and the urgency of the subject, the Dutch government is investing 12 million euros from the National Growth Fund programme Circular Plastics NL (CPNL) in an expansion of NTCP's research facilities. Since its establishment in 2018, independent institute NTCP in Heerenveen has played an important role in developing, researching, and applying innovations around the sorting and washing of plastic packaging waste to make it suitable for recycling. Over the past five years, the knowledge centre has grown into a European leader in this field with many (inter)national partners and customers from industry, government, and research.


Collaboration with CPNL

The goal of the eight-year CPNL programme is to make plastic fully circular and accelerate the transition. CPNL director Marc Spekreijse: "Solutions to increase the quality and quantity of recycling can be easily investigated and developed in collaboration with industry, entrepreneurs and researchers with the open infrastructure at NTCP in order to recycle to a higher quality and at a more efficient level. By awarding this grant to NTCP, an important and necessary step is taken with investments to further develop the "characterization, sorting and washing" of plastic waste streams. This pre-processing is one of the bottlenecks in almost all value chains that we need to solve in order to accelerate the transition to more circularity."


Increasing earning power through innovative research into plastic recycling

In order to turn plastic waste into a new raw material, in addition to reducing the use of plastic and a well-organized collection system, sorting and reprocessing (washing) the waste is a crucial step. NTCP is uniquely positioned due to the fact that the applied research on plastic from household waste is carried out at a relevant scale with its own industrial installations. This allows new technologies and processes to be developed and tested in a realistic but controlled environment and accelerates actual implementation. This is an urgent requirement as the percentage of plastic that is currently recycled must increase. On top of that, many types of plastic products are not yet recycled at all. NTCP cooperates with all parties in the chain, from producers who put packaging on the market to the sorters and recyclers (mechanical and chemical) who make the material available again as a raw material for use in new products.

Through CPNL's contribution, the Netherlands is investing in a development that makes an important contribution to the solutions that lead to more circularity and thus to sustainable and structural economic growth.


With this new investment, NTCP will double its facilities in the next 2 years, which can then be used to carry out specific research together with these stakeholders.

This involves equipment that can be used to better recognise and separate the packaging during sorting, for example through the use of artificial intelligence. This will make it possible to sort at a higher purity in the future and, for example, to distinguish between bottles that have contained food products and bottles of the same material that have been used for shampoo. After sorting, the streams must be treated to rid the plastic of adhering dirt, product residues, inks, labels, and adhesives. There are major improvements to be achieved in the search for the right cleaning methods in which energy consumption, the use of cleaning agents and the formation of microplastics must be minimized. NTCP will install advanced equipment that will be used to investigate and develop optimal cleaning processes.

With this funding, the knowledge institute will strengthen its leading position in Europe in this domain, and significantly expand its current workforce of 20 experts working on sorting and recycling challenges in Heerenveen.