Plastic Circular Economy in Tunisia: Good Practices and Networking
The event opened on the interventions of the partner organizations, namely UNIDO, the European Union in Tunisia, ANGED, CONECT, and the Ministry of Industry and SMEs. Representatives cited a state of play in the plastics sector, and affirmed the willingness of their organizations to support the transition to the circular economy in Tunisia.
"It is essential to get rid of the linear economic model in the field of plastic. The Tunisian Government is thus acting on 3 axes, namely the establishment of a legal framework, the promotion of eco-innovation and green investments, as well as the promotion of collaborations between research and industry "- Riadh Ben Rejeb, Director of Industrial Safety at the Ministry of Industry and SMEs.
A panel followed, dealing with plastic recycling in Tunisia: from environmental challenge to creating added value. The five panelists, representing PACKTEC, ANGED, the Technical Center for Chemistry, Plastics Recyclers Europe, et European Plastics Recycling and Recovery Organization, each spoke about the plastic of their perspective. Extended Producer Responsibility, operational resources, and current skills of Tunisian organizations have been at the heart of the interventions.
At the end of these interventions, six foreign companies presented their innovative solutions in the field of plastic:
• AIMPLAS: a plastic recycling technique that reaches higher levels of decontamination, and a better quality of recycled plastics at the end of the process.
• Irritec: an initiative, Green Fields, that rids farmers of plastic waste, which is turned into irrigation pipes.
• Braiform: a system for the recovery, reuse and recycling of centers on a large scale.
• Multiport: plastic cable ducts, made from recycled plastic.
• Stormboard: plywood sheets, made of recycled plastic, weatherproof and fully recyclable.
• Revynil Floor: a recovery, recycling, and reuse system for post-use vinyl.
Having become a tradition at UNIDO and SwitchMed, the Business-to-Business meetings offered Tunisian plastics professionals an opportunity to exchange and collaborate with their European counterparts. Some 60 meetings between 25 Tunisian companies and 6 European companies took place, at the end of which fruitful arrangements were discussed.
Collaborative interest has particularly focused on future purchases of recycling facilities for Tunisian factories, as well as a possibility of eco-innovative technology transfer. All parties involved were interested in sorted plastic solutions adapted to the Tunisian market.
"We need to establish a system of technology transfer with industry internationally, and encourage exchanges of expertise" - Amel Bouajina, Engineer at PACKTEC
The morning of the second day was a round table on the theme "Opportunities for Collection and Recycling of Plastics in Tunisia". It brought together 33 guests representing 22 government agencies, companies, and civil society organizations from Tunisia and Europe. The crucial question arose as to the lack of data available concerning the collection of plastics in Tunisia.
Originally, the informal system of collecting plastic in Tunisia, carried out by some 15 thousand "Barbechas" (ragmen). The inefficiency of this system is based on the precariousness of their conditions: no fixed income or social security coverage, overexploitation, and social stigmatization. The situation is paradoxical, between the necessity of Barbecha's work in the plastic chain, and their erasure of social life. Hence the emergence of initiatives such as that of International Alert, which set up a plastic collection and sorting unit led by the Barbechas of the disadvantaged neighborhood Hay Ettadhamon, as well as an association that groups them together. gives them a voice in the community.
This type of solution is applauded by ANged, the national waste management body in Tunisia, which recognizes the importance of formalizing the collection sector, in order to establish a national plastics strategy. This strategy will include a census of the current situation, as well as the identification of potential deposits to be exploited in the sector.
To this end, Roberta de Palma, Senior Technical Advisor on the SwitchMed program at UNIDO, says: "The plastics sector, which is the main exporter in Tunisia, can be developed at the local level in the processing and packaging sectors: why not encourage the producers of PET bottles to use 100% recycled raw materials from the recovered bottles?"
Exchanges between national and international actors have generated knowledge transfers, and possibly technologies in the future. The failures of the plastic collection and recycling system in Tunisia have been identified, namely the lack of official data on the collection and the need for collaboration between the different actors. Solutions have been proposed to improve them, namely to multiply initiatives of integration of Barbechas in the formal curriculum, encourage collaboration between municipalities to set up waste sorting centers, and promote funds for research and development. development for the benefit of industry.
The next step should include a workshop bringing together all national players in the plastics industry, ie industry, municipalities, government agencies, civil society organizations, research laboratories, etc.
"All actors must work together to put in place a roadmap, to begin a national strategy of plastic" - Rachid Nafti, MED TEST II Team Leader Tunisia