Published 2022-07-07

This post is also available in Swedish

Wide variety of plastics hinders recycling

The vast number of different plastics that are used and combined in products causes problems for recycling and contributes to significant climate impact. Can the current huge variation in plastics be decreased and help boost a circular economy? Plastics, recycling, policy instruments and attitudes were discussed at one of Mistra’s seminars in Almedalen.

Discussions at Mistra’s seminar on Are fewer plastics a solution? What do companies, users and experts think? included current research from Mistra REES and Mistra STEPS, with several experts participating.

The large number of different plastics, which have various additives and which are used and combined in diverse products, leads to problems for material recycling of plastic during waste management processes. It becomes practically impossible to differentiate clearly between plastic fractions with defined material properties. The volumes of each separated plastic fraction are small and it is hard to find actors to recycle the plastics with retained quality, as this often requires larger volumes and clearly differentiated material properties. Consequently, actors use virgin plastics instead. This increases the amount of plastic that is produced and cannot then be recycled, thus increasing greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and waste management.

The book “Ingen kommer undan plasten” (“No one gets away from plastic”)

Participants: Professor at Linköping University and Programme Director for Mistra REES; Åsa Stenmarck, Expert in material flows, Swedish Environmental Protection Agency; Jenny Fagerland, Project Manager, SIS – Swedish Institute for Standards; Leif Nilsson, Expert, Arla Plast; Karl Holmberg, Doctoral Student, Mistra STEPS and Lund University

Mistra’s book, Ingen kommer undan plasten, is available at

You can read more about the research presented by Karl Holmberg in this article: Gyllene tillfälle för tuffare plastproblematik.

The report on The future of plastics? – Swedish public opinion on plastics policies is available on Mistra STEPS’ website.