Recycling Plastic Packaging Waste from Households: A Study of Recycling Challenges and Market Opportunities for the Recycled Waste Fraction

Camilla Fløe Cruse Henriksen

Student thesis: Master thesis


In a world where the resources we use are finite and the pressure on them is constantly growing, the traditional linear economy in which resources are taken to make products, that are then used before being disposed as waste (also known as the take-make-use-dispose economic model), is no longer feasible. Circular economy is often seen as a solution to the problem, given that it seeks to prolong product lives and to close value chains in order to make economic growth independent of the world’s scarce resources. Part of the transition from a linear to a circular economy evolves around the recycling of products, and this thesis seeks to understand the challenges that lie within this subject.
Given Europe’s increased consumption of plastics, and the large amounts of it being discarded as waste, especially in the form of packaging, the thesis aims at gaining more knowledge of the issues associated with recycling of waste. More specifically, the waste fraction collected from households in Denmark is the topic of the thesis. In addition to trying to understand the main challenges that lie with the increased recycling of household plastic packaging waste, the study attempts to identify actions required to close the value chain. The study first seeks an understanding of the challenges with recycling and a circular economy from available theory and literature. Next, six Danish companies and institutions are investigated because of their involvement in the plastic value chain, aiming to understand each company’s point of view and experience with regard to the aim of increasing recycling rates of the waste fraction. The information gained from reports and the empirical data is used to identify the biggest challenges with recycling plastic packaging collected from households.
Evaluating these challenges with the theories and reports presented, the study identifies eight activities required by the Danish government, European Union, other public institutions, and/or private companies in the immediate future. These activities involve raising public awareness of the subject of recycling, increasing the recyclability of packaging products, implementing homogeneous waste collection systems, and lastly ensuring that secondary raw materials can be used in the production of new goods, and to incentivize this use. These activities represent the most important changes to be made nationally, if a transition from a linear to a circular economy is to take place.

EducationsMSc in Management of Innovation and Business Development, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2017
Number of pages81
SupervisorsCarsten Greve