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.

Dear colleagues, here comes the newsletter from our project Ocean Plastic Turned into an Opportunity in Circular Economy (OPTOCE)! It has been a while since our last newsletter, so let us remind you about what we are doing in our project.

The aim of the Norad-funded and SINTEF-led project OPTOCE is to reduce the flow of plastic waste to our oceans. The regional project will showcase how the cement industry can be involved and increase the treatment capacity for Non-Recyclable Plastic Wastes (NRPW) in China, India, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam and thereby contribute to reduce the release of plastics to the ocean. Through pilot demonstrations and capacity building activities in our partner countries, we bring cement industry and authorities together to find sustainable solutions to tackle the plastic waste crisis.

Pilot demonstrations conducted in 2023

The last year we have conducted four new pilot demonstrations in cement industry in our partner countries, two in India, one in Vietnam and one in Thailand. In our pilot demonstrations, we compare the use of NRPW to the use of coal in cement production, measuring emissions and product quality using only coal, and substituting part of the coal with NRPW. All operations were conducted in compliance with National Emission Limit Values (ELVs) while co-processing NRPW. In the pilot demonstrations in 2023, an estimated 299 907 tonnes of NRPW were co-processed, resulting in an estimated saving of 216 963 tonnes of coal. This estimation assumes that the pilot plants continued to co-process NRPW for 90% of the year 2023.

Pilot demonstration with INSEE Ecocycle in Thailand

In Thailand, a pilot demonstration examining dumpsite mining together with INSEE Ecocycle was conducted in 2023. In the pilot demonstration, plastic waste from a closed dumpsite near Bangkok was examined and brought to Saraburi Cement plant for co-processing.

The total accumulated waste in the dumpsite is 339 000 tons. The dumpsite received Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) from the local municipality. The waste was not segregated before arriving at the dumpsite, however informal waste collectors were working on the dumpsite during operation, collecting materials that could be recycled. Together with the Asian Institute for Technology, we examined the waste in the dumpsite, discovering that as much as 87 percent was plastic waste. Of this, 91 percent were LDPE.

As much as 74 percent of the MSW in South-East Asia is still going to landfills and dumpsites (Thai-German Cooperation, 2022) and worldwide, 5 billion tons of plastic waste is accumulated in the environment and dumpsites (Geyer et al., 2017). In Thailand, it is estimated that the 2380 dumpsites in the country consist of 97 million tons of plastic waste, on average 42 percent of the waste in the dumpsites. If we add landfills to the equation, the total amount of plastic waste accumulated in Thailand is 188 million tons (Sharma et al., 2019). Dumpsites near oceans or waterways are assumed to release up to 1,3 million tons of plastic waste to our oceans every year (Ocean Conservancy, 2017). In other words, finding sustainable treatment options for this low-quality plastic waste is urgently needed!

We have made a short video from the pilot demonstration in Thailand, you can watch it below!

Upcoming workshop in Bangkok

On June 7 we will, together with INSEE Ecocycle and the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Thailand, arrange a physical workshop in Bangkok, discussing the findings from the pilot demonstrations and treatment options for low-quality plastic waste. All our partners are welcome to join by registering here.

Numerous hazardous chemicals have been identified in recycled plastic.

In a 2023 study led by scientists from the University of Gothenburg, plastic pellets from recycling plants in 13 countries across Africa, South America, Asia, and Eastern Europe were found to contain hundreds of chemicals, including numerous highly toxic pesticides. "Plastic recycling has been touted as a solution to the plastics pollution crisis, but toxic chemicals in plastics complicate their reuse and disposal, hindering recycling," says Professor Bethanie Carney Almroth of the University of Gothenburg. It is estimated that by 2050, 2 billion tonnes of chemical additives will have been used to improve the performance of plastics (Carmona et al, 2023). Among these additives are several chemicals of concern with toxic, persistent, and bio-accumulative properties, which can be released into the environment during manufacture, use, or disposal. Despite some national and regional regulations governing hazardous chemical levels in specific plastic products, less than 1% of plastics chemicals are subject to international regulation (Carmona et al, 2023).

Persistent plastics, with an estimated lifetime for degradation of hundreds of years in marine conditions, can break up into micro- and nano plastics over shorter timescales, thus facilitating their uptake by marine biota throughout the food chain. These polymers may contain chemical additives and contaminants, including some known endocrine disruptors that may be harmful at extremely low concentrations for marine biota, thus posing potential risks to marine ecosystems, biodiversity, and food availability (Gallo et al, 2018).

On February 12, 2024, watchdog groups Basel Action Network (BAN) and The Last Beach Cleanup revealed that California is illegally exporting contaminated plastic waste to countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, and Mexico, violating state laws SB343 and AB881. These laws align with the Basel Convention to prevent waste dumping in developing countries. Data from CalRecycle shows that California's plastic waste does not meet legal export criteria, yet such exports occur daily, misleadingly boosting the state's waste diversion rates.

Prolonged project period

The OPTOCE project period was extended until December 2025, and we are now looking for new pilot demonstrations, new partners and partner countries. Get in touch with us if you see a potential fruitful collaboration to tackle the world's plastic crisis!

Kind regards from the OPTOCE team – Kåre Helge Karstensen, Anneli Alatalo Paulsen and Palash Kumar Saha


BAN (Basel Action Network), 12 February 2024.

Carmona, E., Elisa Rojo-Nieto, E., Rummel, C. D., Krauss, M., Syberg, K., Ramos, T. M., Brosche, S., Backhaus, T., Almroth, B. C., 2023. ‘A dataset of organic pollutants identified and quantified in recycled polyethylene pellets’, Data in Brief, Volume 51, December 2023, 109740.

Gallo, F., Fossi, C., Weber, R., Santillo, D., Sousa, J., Ingram, I., Nadal, A., Romano, D., 2018. ‘Marine litter plastics and microplastics and their toxic chemicals components: the need for urgent preventive measures’ Environ Sci Eur (2018) 30:13.

Geyer R, Jambeck J, Law KL. Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made. Sci Adv. 2017;3(e1700782):1–5.

Ocean Conservancy. Stemming the tide: land-based strategies for a plastic—free ocean. New York: Mckinsey Center; 2017.

Sharma A., Aloysius V., and Visvanathan C. Recovery of plastics from dumpsites and landfills to prevent marine plastic pollution in Thailand. Waste Disposal & Sustainable Energy (2019). Online:

Thai-German Cooperation (2019). Waste-to-Energy Guidelines.


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