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European research and development of new plastic recycling process, so that plastic products get a second life
Time: 2020-7-31 16:52:11 Source:绿凯思科GETRECYCLING Author:GET营销中心 Hits:71

Plastic waste is an increasingly serious environmental problem. Europe produces about 60 million tons of plastic every year, but only 30% will be recycled. Of all the plastic waste generated, 79% will eventually be landfilled or thrown into the natural environment as waste. However, as Europe begins its transition to a circular economy, where materials are reused at the end of their useful lives, rather than thrown away, improved plastic recycling begins to play an important role in the circular economy.


A series of measures recently adopted by the European Commission will help to improve the sustainability of plastics.


According to foreign media reports, several new recycling technologies are being tested, which may make disposable food packaging, fiber reinforced automotive parts and mattress foam polymers and other plastic products have two lives and become the same as new ones.


The plastics strategy, adopted in 2018, aims to address this problem by changing the design, use and recycling of plastic products. One of the key objectives is to make 55% of plastic packaging recyclable by 2030. Packaging has a high environmental footprint: about 40% of plastic production is used for packaging and is usually discarded after use.


Packaging is usually made of several different types of plastics, making recycling more challenging.


Fresh foods such as meat and cheese usually have multiple layers of protection, such as lids, films and trays, which are not made of the same kind of plastic. When dealing with different plastics, they need to be separated because in the traditional recycling process, the different plastics cannot be well mixed together. However, separation is time-consuming and expensive. Therefore, such items cannot be recycled or considered impossible to be recycled.


Fiber reinforced composites are facing a similar fate. This plastic based material, reinforced with glass or carbon fiber, can be used in a variety of automotive interior and exterior components, from bumpers, Textile Coverings to door panels. Since it is difficult to separate different materials, such materials are usually incinerated at the end of their life.


Now, though, new recycling technologies can help.


As part of the multicycle project, Dr. bugnicourt and project partners have expanded a patented process, creasolv, developed by the Fraunhofer Institute in Munich, Germany, which enables multilayer packaging materials and fiber reinforced composites to be reborn again and again.


Using a solvent based formulation, different types of plastics and fibers can be extracted and dissolved in solvents to achieve the purpose of separation. The polymer, the long-chain molecules that make up the plastic, is then recycled in solid form from the solution and then re molded into plastic pellets, and the recycled fibers can be reused.



So far, compared with the existing methods, this process shows a better prospect.


In the traditional mechanical recycling method, plastics are usually degraded in the process of treatment, so their use is limited. Chemical recovery is an emerging technology, which can turn plastics into small molecules or monomers. Although high quality plastics can be produced, this kind of plastics may be energy intensive products. Using creasolv recycling method, the quality of recycled plastics is very high, and the process is more efficient.


Now, the team has been conducting small-scale experiments with multilayer packaging and composites to test the process. Meanwhile, they are designing a large-scale pilot plant in Bavaria, which will start in July. The main challenge, says Dr bugnicourt, is the large-scale disposal of plastic waste made from complex plastic mixtures.


Members of the team are also developing a system to monitor the composition of plastic waste, and they hope to be able to automatically identify the types of plastics and fibers in products so as to optimize the recycling process based on the batches of recycled materials. According to Dr. bugnicourt, the system could be installed in existing recycling plants to expand the range of recycled plastics, and special facilities could be built to deal with industrial waste.


Improving the existing recycling process can also reduce the impact of plastic waste that is difficult to reuse on the environment. Although some commonly used plastics, such as pet used in the manufacture of beverage bottles, are widely recycled, plastics with more special uses are often not widely recycled. Technical barriers are one of the reasons.


Dr. Garcia armingol, director of the energy and environment group at Circe Energy Research Center in Spain, and colleagues are demonstrating ways to improve the recovery rate of hard to recycle plastics as part of polynspire project. They are mainly concerned with polyamide plastics for automotive gears and airbags, as well as polyurethane flexible foams for mattress and carpet products.


The team believes that traditional recycling methods can be improved to improve the quality of recycled plastics. To do this, they are working on two technologies: adding glass (a newer plastic that is tough and tough) and adding high-energy radiation. "The main objective of both technologies is to improve the wear resistance and performance of recycled materials so that they can be used in high demand applications," said Dr Garcia armingol


Other innovative technologies they are exploring can improve chemical recovery, which has great potential in achieving a circular economy, because plastics can be recycled continuously while maintaining high quality.


However, the environmental footprint of the technology can also be reduced. For example, the use of microwave or smart magnetic materials can reduce the energy required to generate heat to achieve polymerization. When polymerization occurs, the monomers produced by the recovery process are combined to form long chain molecules of plastics.


So far, the team has been testing such technologies in the lab. Now they are preparing for the manufacturing phase of the project, which will prove that such technologies are feasible on a semi industrial scale. At present, they are carrying out the pretreatment and purification stage of recovery.


The next step in the project is to demonstrate that the plastics produced by such technologies are of sufficient quality to replace the original materials. Dr. Garcia armingol and colleagues will focus on certain applications, such as automotive parts and mattresses that have strict quality requirements. Working closely with industrial partners in the automotive industry, chemical and waste management companies is also key to the adoption of such technologies.

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