Closing the loop for engineering plastic waste using advanced physical recycling methods

Engineering plastics (e.g., ABS, PC and PMMA) have superior mechanical properties, such as strength and gloss. Therefore, they are primarily used in high-end products, such as electrical and electronic (E&E) devices and passenger cars. When it comes to end-of-life solutions, closed-loop recycling is the only sustainable option for this group of plastics. This is mainly due to a lack of alternative product applications to absorb lower-grade recycled material in quantity. In turn, closed-loop recycling implies very high quality requirements on the recycled material to replace virgin resins.

Closed-loop recycling of engineering plastics, especially from post-use sources, is still in its infancy. This is mainly due to the complexity of numerous engineering plastics as a material (often representing blends of different polymer types, such as PC/ABS) and that of the waste streams where they mostly occur, e.g. E-waste. An additional difficulty is the presence of legacy additives, such as certain types of flame retardants in E-waste, the use of which is banned by EU law. Since mechanical recycling has no technological capabilities to remove flame retardants or other additives, plastic waste containing such additives is currently incinerated of landfilled.

Current recycling solutions largely relying on mechanical recycling that offers a partial solution for engineering plastic waste only. As a result, the recycled content of plastic parts in E&E devices and automobiles is currently less than 2%. On the other hand, the EU target is 24% to be achieved by 2030. We believe that this goal can only be achieved with the aid of advanced recycling techniques, such as solvent-based and chemical methods. In our view, the best results can be achieved by a proper combination with mechanical recycling methods. This paper discusses the opportunities of combining mechanical and solvent-based techniques for the recycling of complex waste streams, such as E-waste.

This is a presentation given by Norbert Fraunholcz, CEO ReSolved Technologies B.V.

Interview

Question 1: What drives you?
I’ve always felt an urge to clean up trash and I’ve always been attracted to finding solutions to difficult recycling problems.

Question 2: Why should the delegate attend your presentation?
We feel that there is a lot of confusion about the role of chemical and other advanced recycling solutions in treating plastic waste and how they fit in the total picture. In this presentation, we try to shed some light on this subject without the ambition of offering a total explanation of course.

Question 3: What emerging technologies / trends do you see as having the greatest potential in the short and long run?
We believe that solvent-based recycling has the potential to play a prominent role in the future technological mix to treat plastic waste, especially for engineering plastics and PVC.

Question 4: What kind of impact do you expect them to have?
Solvent-based recycling enables us to turn even low-grade plastic waste into near-prime quality recycled material in an energy-efficient and cost-effective way. It offers therefore a powerful tool to improve the circularity of plastics while saving a very significant amount of CO2.

Question 5: What are the barriers that might stand in the way?
The current recycling infrastructure for plastic waste is optimized for mechanical recycling. The quality of mechanically pre-treated plastic waste is often suboptimal for advanced recycling, such as the solvent-based method, in terms of quality and price. This pre-treatment process will have to be optimized if advanced recycling is to play a significant role in the recycling technology mix.

About Norbert Fraunholcz
M.Sc. in minerals processing technology received from the Mining Academy of Freiberg, Germany in 1992.
PhD in separation technology of waste plastics received from the Delft University of Technology, Netherlands in 1998.
Associated professor recycling technology at the Delft University of Technology between 1996-2003.
Consulting on technology, strategy and supply chain management in the field of plastics recycling at Recycling Avenue BV between 2003-2019.
Lead Engineer Recycling at The Ocean Cleanup between 2013-2018.
Founder and CEO at ReSolved Technologies BV since 2020

About ReSolved Technologies B.V.
ReSolved Technologies (2020) is a high-tech startup in the field of advanced recycling of plastic waste. We are dedicated to increase the circularity of engineering plastics by addressing complex waste streams for which no proper recycling solutions exist today. Using a proprietary solvent-based technology, we extract valuable plastics from these difficult-to-recycle waste streams and convert them to recycled material of near-prime quality that is suited for closed-loop recycling in high-end markets.

Norbert Fraunholcz is speaker at the 2022 edition of the Circular Chemistry Conference.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.