Performing arts festival Noorderzon - PLA cup recycling system - best practice

The festival season is officially in full swing, which means a lot of people can enjoy a wide variety of music and several associated arts & culture events all day and night. One downside to these festivities is, however, the creation of a considerable amount of plastic waste. Already at an early stage the Performing Arts Festival Noorderzon in Groningen, an annual public event in the Netherlands, has been aware of this problem. Noorderzon started to initiate ongoing projects with the aim of reducing its plastic waste.The efforts of Noorderzon are also noted by the eco-certification label ´Green Key´. Green key supports festival organizers who are involved in sustainability and can effectively communicate and manage this commitment in a tangible way. The Green Key certification is annually obtained by Noorderzon.

PLA End-of-Life options
Together with Bio Futura, distributor and developer of biobased disposables, Noorderzon introduced a new recycling system for sustainable drinking cups out of PLA, a biobased material made from renewable resources. The festival has been already using these disposable bioplastic cups for several years now. In the same vein, the mission of Bio Futura has been to replace as many oil based plastics as possible by biobased alternatives. An added advantage of PLA in general is that a significantly lower amount of CO2 is released. After use, the material can be industrially composted or transformed into biogas. Despite these possibilities, large amounts of compostable PLA cups are still often not accepted as organic waste. At the moment recycling would be even a more sustainable option than composting. It is through recycling that the raw material (corn) can be saved and enter the closed-loop production.

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
During Noorderzon the collaborating partners Bio Futura, Huhtamaki (producer of PLA cups), Natureworks (producer of PLA) and Looplife joined forces to gather PLA cups for recycling. Visitors were triggered to collect cups, and for every 50 cups collected and returned, a consumption coin was given for a free beverage. After the festival the collected cups were transported to Belgium-based Looplife Polymers, a company specializing in the recycling of polymers and fibers into high-value granulate. From the recycled material a new consumption coin was created for the Noorderzon festival in 2017!   

Lessons learned
With our partners,we look back at the promising beginning of the PLA recycling project. Although the first successes have been achieved during the first edition, there is still room for improvement in our joint cup recycling project. Therefore, we would like to share two key points of attention, which should be a call for discussion. 

  • First of all, the information infrastructure needs to improved regarding PLA recycling options; everybody (from visitor to bartender) who is participating at the event should be well informed and understand the concept.

  • Looplife has sorted the cups; all contaminants were removed such as PET bottles and other pieces of waste (sand and paper). The final recycled material is, however, not optimal yet. There are too many contaminants to make high quality regranulate out of it: how can this be prevented? Filament can be produced out of granulate and also used for 3D printers.  

In you’re interested to contribute or see possibilities to cooperate in this project, then please feel free to send us an e-mail.

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