The tyranny of the MFR

The tyranny of the MFR

The plastics industry faces significant challenges in the coming years between 2025-2030. According to the commitments of the European Plastics Pact  ( , an average of 25-30% recycled plastic must be used in plastic finished products and packaging materials. Currently, according to the report issued by the "European Plastics Pact", in 2021, the proportion of recycled plastic used on average was still only 10%. For the time being, there is no legal obligation on the mandatory recycling ratio, it is clear that European decision-makers are also looking for reasons and opportunities. There are circumventing regulations, such as the End-of-life Vehicles Regulation, according to which it will be mandatory to plan 6% and then 25% recycled plastic in newly manufactured cars in projects starting from 2025. In practice, this will affect cars that will be produced in 2030-31. But the regulation for the construction industry is also on the way, the proposal will be published soon. There will be no area of the industry that is not affected by regulation. Most plastic converters think that their products are not subject to the mandatory recyclate content regulations, which will come into effect continuously from 2025.  They think that in order to preserve quality, they will never add regranulate to their products, but rather pay the fees and taxes.

Plastic recycling is not new, many companies make their living from it all over Europe. Based on the experience so far, it can be seen that, on the one hand, there is a shortage of high-quality recyclate, and on the other hand, even high-quality regranulates can only be used to a limited extent. Until 2020, regranulates were mostly used to reduce material costs and to manufacture cheap, technically undemanding products. However, the situation will change now, the widespread use of regranulates will be both an expectation and an obligation as of 2030. In Hungary alone, we have to count on the use of 100-150 thousand tons of high-quality regranulate. Will there be so much?

Recognizing this fact, a voluntary international project was launched under the umbrella of the Hungarian Plastics Industry Association, with the participation of Hungarian, Polish, Romanian and other Central European companies, the aim of which is to assess and define the industry's needs for regranulate. Development of regranulate standards. After that, determination of standard ideal waste streams with the help of recyclers. The participants of the project come from the domestic plastics industry, who carry out this task in their spare time. It is important to note that there is no client, no external funding, and therefore no external influence or pressure. The main goal is the professional public good, i.e. the creation of a broad consensus in the plastics industry regarding the use of regranulate and the mandatory recycling ratio.
The basic idea of the project is that plastic converters want to continue to supply to their customers in a similar quality and quantity as before. Basically, they will not change their processing technology, film manufacturers will continue to produce film, pipe manufacturers will continue to produce pipes, bottle manufacturers will also produce hollow bodies and so on.

Plastic has a big advantage, which is also a disadvantage from the point of view of recycling. A wide variety of products can be produced by relatively easy modification of molecular masses and chains. In order to produce a plastic product for a specific purpose, a polymer with specific technical parameters is required. One of the most important parameters, in addition to the polymer grade - which can be PE, PP, PVC, PS, PET, just to mention the largest ones - is the Melt flow rate. But what is the melt flow rate? Let me quote the literature:

"The  melt flow rate, popularly known as the MFR (it characterizes the flowability of the plastic melt at a given temperature and load) provides everyday guidance regarding the use of different feedstock... From the manufacturer's point of view, the MFR value is an indicator that the given product corresponds to an expected average molecular weight value. It is worth emphasizing: the higher the average molecular weight, the tougher the polymer is, with higher physicomechanical values, so you can know in advance that a higher MFR value is expected to mean a lower end product quality."[1]

All this means that we do not have a free combination option between the melt flow rate and plastic end product, the MFR determines what can be manufactured from what. Let's take an example in the case of polypropylene, we identified 77 different product groups according to production process/application and MFR range. They were further divided according to polypropylene grade, homopolymer, impact copolymer and random copolymer. All this means that if we want to maintain the current plastic product structure made of polypropylene, we have to produce 100 different polypropylene regranulates due to the regulations that will gradually come into force after 2025. I'll just note that in the case of polyethylene, this number is already close to a thousand.

[1] Source: