Substances added to a resin in order to modify its properties and to increase its performance (e.g. rigidity, flexibility, colour, durability etc.). Examples of additives include: stabilizers, colourants, fillers, plasticizers.


Large particles formed by joining or binding together of primary particles, their original identity can still be visible in the final form.


Agricultural Plastic Waste

Trash generated from plastic products used in agricultural activities. Such products include mulch films, seed/soil bags, nets, twine, etc.


Application Technology
Technology used for converting plastics granulate into a product, e.g. injection molding, blow molding, extrusion.


Strapped bundles of sorted plastics waste materials. They simplify transportation, handling and storage.

Blow Molding
Method of fabrication in which a warm plastic hollow tube is placed between the two halves of a mould cavity and forced to assume the shape of that mould cavity by use of internal pressure. This process forms hollow articles such as bottles, tanks, etc.

Bulk Waste
Any type of waste product that, due to its large size, cannot be accepted by household waste collection.


Process used to smooth, compress, thin or coat materials during the manufacturing phase. Material is pushed through heated rolls, called calenders.

Chemical Recycling/Feedstock Recycling
Operation through which collected plastics waste is reduced into its monomers or other basic chemicals. 

Circular Economy
Alternative to the conventional linear economy. "Circular" means that society keeps resources in use for as long as possible, extracts the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recovers and regenerates products and materials at the end of each service life.

Closed Loop Recycling
Processing of plastic waste in a closed and controlled chain. These are product loops in which materials are continually recycled into the same product.

Process of gathering plastic waste from industrial/commercial use as well as from households through a range of systems: curbside collection, bring systems, deposit systems, co-mingled collection.

Party or parties that aggregate post-consumer, commercial, and/or post-industrial materials from the public and sell to reclaimers. Collectors can collect materials from the curbs or households, or operate drop-off centres where the public can bring recyclables. (Source: APR)

Additive used to give colour or enhance the colour of plastics.

Co-mingled Collection

Gathering of mixed waste streams, e.g. collection of plastic waste together with other waste fractions like metals, cardboard, compostables, etc.

Mix of different plastic types and additives.


Process where a polymer is mixed with additives to achieve the desired functionalities of a finised product.

Unwanted content in sorting input, sorting output and recycled material. Most common impurities in plastic waste streams include metals, paper/cardboard and organic contamination (food residues), among others. 

Process of transforming raw material (granulate, powder etc.) through heat, pressure, and/or chemistry into a finished product for industry and end-users. Conversion processes involve extrusion, injection moulding, blow moulding, film blowing, calendering, laminating etc.

Curbside Collection
System of waste collection from households, where each house or building has their own waste bins.


Monetary amount added to an object at purchase and refunded at take-back, e.g. beverage container deposit.

Final elimination of waste or residuals, through landfilling or incinerating without energy recovery, which as a result, is not considered as a recycling or recovery operation.

Form of collection of household recyclables wherein the households take the items to a central aggregation location. (Source: APR)

Drop-off Center
Central, predesignated area, building, or facility set up to receive recyclables which are dropped off by individuals.


End-of-life-vehicle (ELV)
Vehicle which has reached the end of its useful lifespan and is therefore considered as waste. In EU, the End of Life Vehicles Directive governs the management of such waste.

Energy Recovery
Operations that capture the released energy obtained during the combustion of plastics waste. This energy can be used to produce heat and/or electricity for domestic or industrial use.

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)
Strategy to impose accountability over the entire lifecycle of products and packaging introduced to the market. This may take the form of legislation that mandates private sector roles, responsibilities and outcomes for the funding and operating of systems designed to recover post-consumer packaging. (Source: APR)

Certification scheme focusing on the traceability of plastic materials and the quality of recycled content.

Process of forming continuous shapes by forcing a molten plastic material through a die.


Feedstock Recycling
Recycling operation performed by reversing the polymerization and transforming polymers back into monomers, which can be burned for e.g heat or chemical feedstocks like synthesis gas, methanol, ammonia, diesel.

Ferrous Metals
Magnetic metals derived from iron or steel; products made from ferrous materials include appliances, furniture, containers, and packaging, like steel drums and barrels. Recycled products include processing tin/steel cans, strapping, and metals from appliances into new products.

Form of an additive used to improve the properties of a material; fillers are most often used as a substitute for more expensive binding agents.


Film Blowing
Also known as blown film extrusion; method through which polymer films are most often manufactured. An extruder melts the polymer and then blows it into a tubular die, after which air is blown into the extruded tube. Cooling air solidifies the melt and nip rolls collect the manufactured film.


Films are distinguished from sheets in the plastic industry only according to their thickness. In general, films have thicknesses no greater than 0,030''.


Resin that has been shredded or granulated to enable further reprocessing.


Flexible Packaging
Flexible packaging is comprised of plastic bags and film such as snack food bags and pet food bags, also including new packaging technologies such as pouches and multilayer film. (Source: APR)


Green House Gases
Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other fluorinated gases are the so-called greenhouse gases. These gases retrap heat in the atmosphere, causing an increase of temperatures on Earth.

General term for devices that chop large items, such as bottle, into flakes that are normally a few centimetres in size. A shredder can do the same or produce strips of material. Granulator is another term for a grinder. (Source: APR)


High-density Polyethylene (HDPE)
Polyolefin usually used for pipes, detergent bottles, closures, etc.

More information can be found in the HDPE Working Group.

Household Collection

System in which each household or unit sets out its own container of recyclables for collection from a designated location or aggregated centralized collection where residents in a multi-family complex all place their recyclables in central storage containers.


Industrial burning of recovered waste where thermal energy is captured for heating and electricity.

Industrial Waste
Unwanted materials from an industrial operation; the waste may be liquid, sludge, solid, and sometimes it can be hazardous.


Injection Moulding
Method of forming objects from granular or powdered plastics, most often of the thermoplastic type. During the process the material is fed from a hopper to a heated chamber, there it is softened after which a ram or a screw forces the material into a mould. The pressure is maintained until the mass has hardened sufficiently for removal from the mould.


Insert Molding
Process of moulding plastic around preformed metal inserts. This process is compatible with both thermoplastic and thermoset materials.


Infrared (IR)
Invisible electromagnetic radiation


Manufacturing process where a material's strength and durability are increased by assembling multiple layers of the material through the use of heat, pressure or adhesives.

Specially engineered site for disposal of solid waste on land. The waste is generally spread in thin layers which are then covered with soil.

Low-density Polyethylene (LDPE)
Polyolefin usually used for films like shopping bags or cheese wrapping.

More information can be found in the LDPE Working Group.


Waste thrown away in an inappropriate place; improperly stored waste that has escaped from its container; misplaced solid waste.


Marine debris/litter
Waste found in the water streams.


Plastic containing very high percentages of additives or colour pigments, used for mixing into larger batches.


Mechanical Recycling
Operation aiming to recover plastics waste via mechanical processes, i.e. grinding, washing, separating, drying, re-granulating and compounding, thus producing recyclates that can be converted into new plastics products, often substituting virgin plastics. For mechanical recycling, only thermoplastic materials are of interest, i.e. polymeric materials that may be re-melted and re-processed into products via techniques such as injection moulding or extrusion. Thermosets cannot be reprocessed in this way but maybe chemically recycled back to feedstock or used as a carrier (e.g. cement kilns).


Filtration process where a material is passed through a membrane, separating it from unwanted particles.


Mixed Plastics
Various similar output fractions of sorting centres and recycling companies classified as waste. It represents mainly a mix of PP, PE but contains also PET, PS, and other polymers to some extent. Recycled material used as e.g. concrete and wood replacement.


Hollow form in which molten plastic is poured to form a designed shape when the material cools.


Fraction containing mostly one type of plastic, where a large share of other plastic (contamination) is not allowed.


Molecule that binds chemically with other molecules to form polymeric substances for example.


Material Recovery Facilities (MRF)
Plants where collected recyclable materials from households are sorted into different categories (e.g. plastics, cardboard, metal, paper).


Protective cover of organic material placed over the soil to preserve soil moisture, prevent erosion or promote the growth of plants.


Municipal Solid Waste (MSW)
Residential and commercial waste generated by a particular municipal area; however, it does not include medical, industrial or construction/demolition waste. (Source: APR)


Near-infrared (NIR)
Near-infrared is a region within infrared electromagnetic radiation. It an often used method of spectroscopy method, employed for the sorting of plastics waste.

Non-ferrous Metals
Metals which contain no iron - such as aluminium, copper, brass and bronze.


Optical Sorter
Type of machinery used to automate the process of identifying and sorting recyclable materials into their different categories for bailing. An optical sorter can be used to sort plastics by colour and/or resin type. (Source: APR)


Polyethylene (PE)
Polyolefin polymer based on ethylene. It is used in a variety of bottles, lids, trays, thin flexible films in pouches and flow wrap applications. Two variants exist: Low-density (LDPE) and high-density (HDPE)


Standard raw material used in plastic manufacturing. Pellets are tablets or granules of uniform size, consisting of resins or mixtures of resins with compounding additives which have been prepared for moulding operations by extrusion and chopping into short segments.


Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)
Polymer used mainly for bottles, trays, and as thin flexible film in pouches and flow wrap applications.

More information in the PET Working Group.

Plastic Flake
Chopped, shredded, or ground plastic item, typically rigid, with maximum dimensions of less than 2.5 centimetres. (Source: APR)


Plastic Resin
Polymer of specific chemical composition such as polyethylene or polypropylene. (Source: APR)


Plastic Scrap
Material that does not meet the quality requirements for reproduction purposes. An example of scrap are pellets that failed to meet specifications of converted goods. The scrap can be sold, disposed of, or ground and used again depending on the levels of contamination and degradation. (Source: APR)

Plastic Waste
Any kind of plastic residual that has been discarded by its owner or is intended to, or required to be discarded.

Additive which gives flexibility to and reduces the brittleness of a material.


Organic materials which have a polymeric structure (consisting of 1 or more polymers). Plastics in a finished state may contain so-called additives (stabilizers, plasticisers, fillers etc.) which are used to modify the properties (colour, rigidity, flexibility etc.) of plastics depending on their applications.


Virgin plastic molecule which consists of chains or rings of linked monomer units.


Group of polymer thermoplastics consisting of only PP and PE.


Post-consumer Material

Material generated by households or by commercial, industrial and institutional facilities in their role as end-users of the product which can no longer be used for its intended purpose. This includes returns of material from the distribution chain. (Source: ISO 14021:2016)


Polypropylene (PP)
Polymer used in bottles, trays, and as a thin flexible film in pouches and flow wrap applications.


Pre-consumer (post-industrial) Material

Also known as "post-industrial". Material diverted from the waste stream during a manufacturing process. Excluded is reutilization of material such as rework, regrind or scrap generated in a process and capable of being reclaimed within the same process that generated it. (Source: ISO 14021:2016)

Plastic pre-shaped part produced by injection moulding systems in the first step of a two-step injection moulding and blow moulding process used to produce bottles or containers. The preform is subsequently re-heated and stretch-blown through a blow moulding process into the final container shape.


Pots, Tubs and Trays (PTTs)

Designated waste stream for plastic products, most commonly made of polyolefins. These are commonly recycled within the mixed plastics stream.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Polymer most often used in construction (pipes, windows, doors), sometimes also used for non-food packaging.

More information in the PVC Working Group.


Raw Material
Raw material is the material used to fabricate or manufacture items of commerce.


Material reclaimed from the waste stream for recycling.


Recycling facility that processes containers into “dirty” flake and then into the final “clean” flake reclaim, which is used in the manufacture of new plastic materials. (Source: Avery Dennison)


Any operation which aims at employing waste to serve for useful purposes (eg. recycling, incineration with production of heat and electricity).


Recovery Rate
Percentage of usable recycled materials that have been removed from the total amount of municipal solid waste generated in a specific area or by a specific business.


Plastics must meet four conditions for a product to be considered recyclable:

  • The product must be made with a plastic that is collected for recycling, has market value and/or is supported by a legislatively mandated program.

  • The product must be sorted and aggregated into defined streams for recycling processes.

  • The product can be processed and reclaimed/recycled with commercial recycling processes.

  • The recycled plastic becomes a raw material that is used in the production of new products.


Materials that meet the four conditions of the recyclability definition, as established by PRE and APR.


Initiative aiming to help the plastics industry improve the design of plastic packaging products, with the ultimate goal of increasing their recyclability. More information on the website: www.recyclass.eu


Material resulting from the processing of plastic waste (pellets, granules, flakes, etc). (EU Commission, DG Grow, Plastic Waste in the environment)


Recycler's Input
Recovered plastic waste which is destined for reprocessing.


Recycler's Output
Products of the recycling process.


Any recovery operation through which waste materials are reprocessed into products, materials or substances for their original or other purposes. The term recycling comprises different processes.


Regrind (Scrap)
Shredded and/or granulated recovered plastics material in the form of free-flowing material. The term is frequently used to describe plastics material in the form of scrap generated in a plastics processing operation and re-used in-house. This term is also used to describe fine plastics powder used as filler in the recovery of plastics. (Source: CEN/TR 15353:2007)


Substance, typically solid, which is convertible into polymers. It can be of plant or synthetic origin.


Resin Identification Code (RIC)
Coding system placed on plastics to identify the polymer used for the production.


Rigid Packaging
Rigid packaging keeps its shape when moved or emptied. It is the opposite of flexible packaging.


Recycled PET that can be used for postconsumer recycled content in a new application.


Returnable Transport Packaging (RTP)
Packaging such as plastic crates or pallets, employed in the transportation of goods and which completes more than one cycle for the duration of its useful life.


Separate Collection
Waste collection system where different waste streams (metals, paper, plastics) are collected separately. This form of the collection ensures lower contamination levels and therefore leads to higher quality recyclates.


Sheets are made of continuous phase plastic in a form in which the thickness is very small in proportion to length and width. The thickness is greater than 0,25 millimetres.


Process of chopping large items into flakes or strips.


Single Stream Recycling
Type of recycling in which all recyclables are collected in the same container and then sorted by the deposit facilities, before entering the recycling process.


Process of classification of the mixed plastic waste in multi-material collection schemes; it consists of separating plastics from non-plastic content as well as plastic itself into different colours/polymer categories.


Sorting Technologies
Technologies employed for the identification and separation of plastic waste by type of polymer, additive, colour or shape, based on different physical as well as technical properties.


Additive that controls the effects of heat and ultraviolet light on polymers, such as oxidation for example.


Variety of multiple polymers with different physical and mechanical properties. A major hurdle for mechanical recycling is that these different polymers are generally non-miscible or compatible with each other. This means that a mixture of different polymers can have inferior mechanical properties which make the recyclates unsuitable for many applications.


Synthetic materials that undergo a chemical change when they are treated, creating a three-dimensional network. After they are heated and formed, these molecules cannot be re-molten and reformed. (Source: PlasticsEurope)


Generic term for PVC, one of the various compounds of ethylene that are polymerized to form resins and plastics (e.g. polyvinyl or polyethylene plastics).


Virgin Plastic
Plastic input that has never been processed before raw material.


Waste Diversion
Act of preventing waste from being disposed into landfills and incinerators.


Any substance or object which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard. (Source: Waste Framework Directive)


In a recycling process, ground particles are sorted according to their specific weight. Very light and thin particles fall down into a vertical chamber, after having been separated from the heavy ones by a low-sucking stream of air.


Zero Waste
Reduction of solid waste generation waste to zero, or as close to zero as possible (Source: APR)