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OPTOCE is funded by the Norwegian Government and aims to increase the treatment capacity for Non-Recyclable Plastic Waste in China, India, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The Corona pandemic is emphasising the relevance of OPTOCE

We in the OPTOCE team will start to share regular newsletters with updates on relevant topics and the status of the project in our partner countries. The COVID-19 situation has impacted possibilities to travel, and more work has been done remotely from Norway and by local partners. This has caused some delays in pilot projects in the partner countries and has resulted in the initiation of an academic collaboration, with relevant master thesis being conducted in each of the OPTOCE countries. Despite delays, some of the pilot demonstrations are still planned deployed this fall. As global recycling rates for plastic are increasing at a slow pace, OPTOCE keep working towards its goal to investigate how co-processing can be used to treat the plastic waste that cannot be recycled today, and thereby reduce amounts of plastic waste released to the oceans.

The Corona virus is causing a flurry of plastic waste - Campaigners fear it might be permanent

Surgical masks, gloves, protective equipment (PPE), body bags - the Covid-19 crisis has spurred a rapid expansion in the production of desperately needed plastic products, with governments racing to boost their stockpiles and regular citizens clamouring for their share of supplies.
With the pandemic continuing to spread and its impacts upon human health and the economy intensifying day-by-day, governments are urged to treat waste management as an urgent and essential public service in order to minimise possible secondary impacts upon health and the environment.
The volume of hospital and health care wastes rose by 600 % in Wuhan in the mid of the outbreak in February and the Government called for assistance from the local cement industry to assist in disposing of plastic related health care wastes by their high temperature cement kilns.

Photo: Disposal of health care wastes in a cement kiln outside Wuhan February 2020

One of China's largest cement companies reached out and made four of their kilns in Hubei and Yunnan available and disposed of in total 170 000 kg of health care wastes like plastic gloves, shields, personal protective equipment, and non-infected items. You can read about this story in the first technical article on Co-processing of Covid-19 waste published in an international journal.

Global plastic production has quadrupled and will rise further

Global plastic production has quadrupled over the past four decades, and 8.3 billion tonnes of virgin plastics was produced globally up to 2015. Out of this, 6.3 billion tonnes have ended up being plastic waste; of this, only 9% was recycled, 12% incinerated and 79% dumped. If current production and waste management trends continue, roughly 12 billion tonnes of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment and the making of these plastics will contribute with up to 15% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Katsiaryna Pabortsava and Richard S. Lampitt published a study in in Nature Communication a few weeks ago.

"High concentrations of plastic hidden beneath
the surface of the Atlantic Ocean"

Concern over plastic pollution of the marine environment is severe. The mass-imbalance between the plastic litter supplied to and observed in the ocean currently suggests a missing sink. However, here we show that the ocean interior conceals high loads of small-sized plastic debris which can balance and even exceed the estimated plastic inputs into the ocean since 1950. The combined mass of just the three most-littered plastics (polyethylene, polypropylene, and polystyrene) of 32–651 µm size-class suspended in the top 200 m of the Atlantic Ocean is 11.6–21.1 Million Tonnes. Considering that plastics of other sizes and polymer types will be found in the deeper ocean and in the sediments, our results indicate that both inputs and stocks of ocean plastics are much higher than determined previously. It is thus critical to assess these terms across all size categories and polymer groups to determine the fate and danger of plastic contamination

The five OPTOCE-countries are producing an estimated 176 000 tonnes of plastic waste every day and have some of the highest releases of plastic waste to the sea. These countries also have the highest production of cement, steel, and electric power, using huge amounts of coal and contributing with a large chunk of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. Replacing parts of this coal with Non-Recyclable Plastic Waste may represent a win-win opportunity – preventing the plastic from ending up in the ocean, reducing the need for fossil coal and indirectly reducing greenhouse gas emissions by avoiding building incinerators or landfills.

Read the ICR article "Ocean plastic: an opportunity in the circular economy?"

Recycling suffers

Covid-19 has hobbled Asia's recycling trade as demand for recycled plastic dips and recyclers face ruin. More than 40 per cent of recyclers in South and Southeast Asia are at risk of going bust as recycled plastic prices fall by a fifth, study reveals. Meanwhile a report from Interpol has revealed a sharp rise in criminal activity in the global recycling trade.

Read the article "Asia’s plastic potential"

Academic Collaboration

OPTOCE has initiated an Academic Collaboration with Asian Universities to build competence on treatment options for Non-Recyclable Plastic Waste and provide better knowledge about current management practice and the fate of mismanaged plastics. Some examples of studies and pilot demonstrations are provided in the following chapters.

Examples of ongoing activities in China

The Yangtze River is draining waste materials from hundreds of millions of people which leads to turbine problems in the world's largest dam located in the Hubei Province.

Photo: The Three Gorges dam authority collects more than 100 000 m3 of floating material from the Yangtze River in the period July-September 2020

Photo: The collected floating material contains plastic waste

The floating material contains a considerable proportion of plastic waste and will be Co-processed in a local cement kiln in Zigui city, upstream the Three Gorges dam in the coming months if approved by MEE. OPTOCE aims to conduct a Pilot demonstration and document the performance.

Examples of ongoing activities in India

In a 18 month project approved by the Principal Scientific Advisor to Government of India, OPTOCE aims to test and compare the performance of treatment options for mined combustible wastes from the Ghazipur dumpsite in Delhi, in a 1) Cement kiln, 2) WtE Incinerator, and 3) Thermal Power plant. The article "India's current and potential MSW use in RDF production" will be published in the International Cement Review in October 2020.

Photo: The Norwegian Minister for Environment and Climate Change is visiting Ghazipur in March 2020

Photo: Ghazipur dumpsite in Delhi is one of the biggest in India; March 2020

OPTOCE is funding research to be conducted by a MSc-student at Jadavpur University in Kolkata. Please also see the article "India’s current and potential MSW use in RDF production - ICR October 2020".

Examples of ongoing activities in Myanmar

OPTOCE will on behalf of the Norwegian Government contribute to prepare a National Plastic Waste Action Plan for Myanmar, planned to be delivered to the President's office by September 2021. The project is coordinated by the World Bank Group and supported by the Asian Development Bank, the Ministry of Environment, Government of Japan, and the Netherland Embassy in Yangon.

Examples of ongoing activities in Thailand

OPTOCE is starting a research study together with the Asian Institute of Technology – AIT aiming to reveal how plastics degrade in dumpsites and how this might contribute to release microplastics to nearby rivers and groundwater.

OPTOCE is a member of the Advisory Panel of the newly established Master of Science in Marine Plastic Abatement (MPA) programme at AIT. The Programme is funded by Government of Japan and is part of UNESCOs Plastic Initiative. OPTOCE is providing lecturers in the Master Programme. The MPA-programme has received more than 200 applications from 31 countries; the first batch with 39 students is ongoing. The next intake will be in January 2021.

Photo: Brochure for the MPA-programme at AIT

Examples of ongoing activities in Vietnam

OPTOCE is starting a research study together with Vietnam National University in Hanoi to study collection and treatment of non-recyclable plastic waste from Hanoi, focusing especially on the practical segregation of recyclable and non-recyclable plastic waste within the informal collection systems.

OPTOCE will cooperate with UNDP in the project "Plastic waste management in Scaling Up A Socialised Model of Domestic Waste and Plastics Management in Five Cities, Viet Nam (DWP5C)" in Binh Duong. The non-recyclable fraction of collected plastic waste will be tried co-processed in local cement industry if found feasible.

1st International Conference on Treatment Options for Non-Recyclable Plastic Waste

The OPTOCE Regional Forum and our 1st International Conference on Treatment Options for Non-Recyclable Plastic Waste has been postponed. The events were originally planned for 12-13 November 2020 but has as of now been moved to the fall of 2021 in Bangkok. Exact dates and other details will be made public before June 2021. Please visit our website for more information, updates, and preliminary registration.

OPTOCE will be part of the Nordic Waste Management Conference organised as a webinar in November together with the Asian Development Bank and the Nordic Countries Embassies in Manila.

We hope you enjoyed our latest newsletter and keep following our activities on the OPTOCE webpage and Facebook page for regular updates about the project.

Børrestuveien 3, 0314 OSLO, Norway