Household appliances switch to recycled plastic

In collaboration with Veolia, the household appliance manufacturer SEB has designed a steam iron containing over 50% recycled plastic. A first in France for small household goods.
Published in the dossier of July 2016

First circular economy loop  

Manufacturing a steam iron from recycled plastic is a simple aim, but a complex process involving contributions from many players: engineers and marketing specialists from the manufacturer, an eco-friendly waste management body, plastic sorting and transformation specialists, to name just a few.

First complete circular economy loop

It all begins with waste collection. In France, the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) principle makes all manufacturers responsible for their products at the end of their lifecycle. It’s difficult for each manufacturer to go and collect waste from the general public! So they have come together as part of an eco-friendly waste management body that they pay for this collection.

“It is important that this waste management body collects large volumes of waste to supply the recycling facilities,” states Françoise Weber, Extended Producer Responsibility officer, Veolia Waste Solutions. “Nowadays, the recycling sector is really becoming industrialized.”  

The plastic is sorted and then transformed so that it is compatible with manufacturers’ recommendations. Depending on oil prices, this recycled plastic is at times cheaper, and at times more expensive than its virgin counterpart. Nonetheless,“the economic model cannot collapse each time the price of oil falls,” underlines Françoise Weber. “So we have to work on the entire value chain to ensure the system’s longevity.”  

Last but not least, recycling can only work with a manufacturer who is motivated and aware of the importance of the matter. Even then, there is sometimes a culture shock.

“We had never worked with the production specialists at SEB; it’s a very different world than that of waste,” admits Françoise Weber.

“However, there is a real desire for mutual understanding on both sides. For example, SEB’s teams came to audit us to help us understand their wishes and their logic.”

As for Veolia, it tailors the recycled raw materials to the production constraints of the household appliance manufacturer’s plants.