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Economy & Markets

RecyClass publishes sorting protocol for plastic packaging

Destined to any company that would like to analyse the sortability of its innovative packaging, in line with design for recycling principles.

Recyclability must be verified at every step of a recycling process and assessing plastic packaging’s sortability plays an important role in claiming whether and to what extent a product is recyclable. Following the definition of recyclability, a plastic product can be considered recyclable not only if it is collected, recycled in a commercially available process, used in the manufacture of new products but also when it is sorted into an aggregated stream.

“A holistic approach to recyclability is necessary if we are to make it happen in Europe by 2030”, said Vincent Mooij, Director at SUEZ.circpack®. Martine Brandsma, Director of NTCP added: “The ‘Sorting Protocol for Plastic Packaging’ complements the Recyclability Evaluation Protocols”, she continued “Sharing and implementing best practices and standards in the collection and sorting as well as harmonising them across Europe must follow now if we are to move the needle on design for recycling further.”

With that purpose in mind, RecyClass developed together with SUEZ.circpack® and NTCP a standardised protocol that evaluates at an industrial scale sorting behaviour of plastic packaging for the following recycling streams: PE flexibles, PP flexibles, PET bottles, PET trays, PP rigids, HDPE rigids, PS rigids. It aims to recognize any design issues that may prevent the detectability of a specific product leading to it ending up in a different stream due to, for example, a large label or a sleeve which are made of a different polymer than the main body of the product. What makes the ‘RecyClass Sorting Protocol for Plastic Packaging’ document comprehensive, is that it includes all the steps involved in the collection, transportation, and sorting, starting with the packaging waste compaction and ending with the Near-Infrared detection step. This all-inclusive approach is indispensable in evaluating properly the sorting behaviour of packaging.

The Sorting Protocol provides a testing methodology with detailed procedures and sampling methods. To assess the feasibility and operational aspects of the protocol trials were carried out at Suez sorting lines and NTCP Test Centre.

Any company interested in a third-party analysis of the sortability of its innovative packaging to identify possible sorting issues, can contact RecyClass to receive more details about the process.

Furthermore, RecyClass is looking forward to collaborate with other sorting centres from across Europe. Any interested organization can apply to become an accredited sorting facility.

Sorting Evaluation Protocol for Plastic Packaging

Tomra: New flake sorting Test Center in Italy

Under the theme of “Testing is believing,” Tomra representatives welcomed approximately 100 participants to its exclusive opening event and guided tour of the new flake sorting facility, located next to its office in Parma, Italy. The inspiring afternoon was filled with informative presentations and demos highlighting the company’s long-term plastics strategy, the purpose and goal of the new facility, and the numerous advantages it offers customers.

Fabrizio Radice, VP and Head of Global Sales and Marketing at Tomra Recycling, started the exclusive event and gave a detailed explanation of the rationale behind investing in a new Test Center. “We have observed an increasing demand for flake sorting tests and a strong market push for high-quality recycled plastics,” Radice told the large crowd. “This requires the purest material fractions across all plastics applications, and the respective technologies and solutions need to be identified, developed, and optimized. This will happen in our new facility, while closely collaborating with our customers and partners.”

In fact, customer collaboration is at the core of the new facility. Customers from around the world can now ship their plastic flakes to Parma. Together with their respective sales contact, the materials are processed by Tomra’s flake sorting machines. Based on the test analysis and results, Tomra will recommend the most suitable machine, process and sensor configuration for the customer’s defined sorting requirements and goals. Customers are provided with an entire business case tailored to their needs before making an investment.

Tomra’s customers have been benefitting from this concept that has been offered globally (Germany, United States, Japan, Korea, China) for decades. They can now enjoy extended testing capacities, shorter lead times and greater flexibility when it comes to scheduling tests. In addition, its location proves to be particularly convenient. Situated in Parma, at the hearth of one of Europe’s most important industrial and production regions, it can be easily reached via the international airports of Milan, Bologna, Verona and Bergamo.

In the second part of his presentation, Radice, detailed why Tomra is a ‘One Stop Shop Solution.’ First, TOMRA offers a vast portfolio of sensor-based sorters for various applications with Autosort and its application-specific complementary products at its core. In the plastics segment, Autosort offers technologies for both presorting and flake sorting that work in unison with each other and allow greater operational and financial benefits. Second, going beyond technology, customers and partners profit from Tomra’s in-depth application knowledge, invaluable consultancy expertise and ongoing service support. The alignment of machines combined with vast expertise and a one-stop service translates into maximum plant performance.

Following Radice, Alberto Piovesan, Segment Manager Plastics EMEA & Americas, presented Tomra’s flake sorting strategy and position in the plastics segment. The audience learned that the company aims to accelerate and shape the development of the sector through its vast application and industry expertise, its consultation, and the most advanced technologies.

The new Test Center will play a crucial role in doing so, as accentuated by Piovesan. “Within only 1.5 years, we established a place where new ideas and innovations are born to best respond to current market trends. More importantly, we are working on solutions that are indispensable for any sorting and recycling plant targeting to successfully upgrade plastics.”

Strong emphasis was also put on the new trends in plastics recycling and the implication these trends have on the industry. One of the trends is seen in a discrepancy of input and output qualities. Whereas input materials are expected to come with lower qualities, the required output must feature the highest qualities possible.

Facing and solving these new challenges makes the application of the latest sorting technologies critical. As an industry pioneer, Tomra clearly understands its role in the segment and continuously develops new technologies and optimizes existing ones to best serve both the customers’ and market’s needs. Piovesan stated that current market trends have resulted in high demand for recycled polyolefins, but recycling rates are still low. Since the company sees increasing potential in polyolefin recycling, it will further devote its attention and expertise to innovate PO-applications. Currently, Tomra is well-positioned in the flake sorting segment and offers two sophisticated flake sorting units.

Ida Semb, Product Manager at Tomra Recycling, offered more detail and presented the key features of Autosort Flake and Innosort Flake, both of which are used for the recovery of plastic flakes (PET, PO, PVC) as small as 2mm and deliver the purity rates demanded by the market, brand owners and converters. Autosort Flake excels in high-end applications where the level of contaminants is rather low, but the quality requirements are particularly high. Innosort Flake is applied for more contaminated streams and is available with a PO-specific sensor to sort polyolefins. With its 2-meter width, Innosort Flake provides accurate sorting result while sorting up to 6 tons per hour.

At the close of the presentations, Ida Semb, Product Manager, and Robert Glaser, Technical Product Expert Flake sorting, joined Alberto Piovesan and moved on to the demo session. All participants were guided into the Test Center, where both machines proved their capabilities in the recovery of polyolefins from highly contaminated material mixes and in color sorting.

After all international participants learned about the company’s plastics strategy, positioning, and available solutions for upgrading recycled plastics, Radice returned to conclude the event. He thanked the customers and press titles for being part of the opening celebration and summarized the key take-aways before the group enjoyed networking opportunities. “We are excited about having guided you through this inspiring and informative day. Our key-message is that we are dedicated to shaping the plastics recycling segment and contribute to it with our comprehensive expertise, technologies and, finally, our passion and commitment to enable greater circularity of our resources. With our new Test Center, we are moving ahead and focusing on the development of new solutions for tomorrow’s challenges. We are your partner and live up to our promises. We invite you to come, test your material on our machines and believe in what is possible in upgrading plastics.”

Recycleye raises £3.5M seed funding 

The company’s seed round takes its total funding to-date to £4.7M since it was founded in 2019 by CEO Victor Dewulf and CTO Peter Hedley.
 
Already relied upon by waste management leaders Biffa and ReGen in the UK, and three of the five largest waste management companies in Europe, Recycleye will use the funding to scale and enhance the accuracy, scope, and capabilities of its world-leading machine learning and robotics technology. In addition, it will continue to bolster its team, expand into new European markets, and further consolidate within existing territories (including the UK, France, and Italy), and expand its product line beyond vision systems.  
  
Using advanced machine learning to train the world’s most powerful recycling robots, Recycleye prevents valuable recyclates from being downcycled, a result of inefficient and ineffective manual labour, with human workers facing dangerous, dull and dirty working conditions, and unreliable machinery. 

The company empowers recycling facilities to increase the purity and subsequent value of their output, increasing the resale value of bales fivefold. By lowering operational expenditure, Recycleye can save facilities up to £2M each year. The company counts Microsoft, NVIDIA, Imperial College London, and FANUC as key technological and strategic partners. 
 
“Waste is not recycled when the cost of recycling exceeds the value of the sorted material. By lowering the cost of recycling with artificial intelligence and robotics, we’re breaking this threshold and building a world where our removal chains are fully integrated back into our supply chains”, comments CEO Victor Dewulf, who left investment banking at Goldman Sachs to study for a PhD in Machine Vision so he could gain the skills to tackle the recycling problem, and tested the company’s AI by throwing waste items on a treadmill. 
 
“It’s startling to see just how inefficient and reliant on archaic, manual processes the waste management industry is. To ensure our team understands the pain of human picking, and the need to replace it with technology, we take them on retreats to trash dumps across Europe. We are delighted to be backed by Promus Ventures, a VC firm with a track record of backing and scaling deep tech companies with world-changing ideas like ours.” 
 

Sabic and Microsoft collaborate on recycled ocean plastic

Microsoft began this project with an objective of creating a plastic resin made from at least 10% recycled ocean plastic as part of its commitment to achieve zero waste by 2030. After hearing the initial vision for the project, Sabic joined the effort to source the recycled material and to formulate a resin that satisfied Microsoft’s demanding quality standards. The Microsoft design team collaborated with technologists at Sabic to provide feedback on prototypes made with the new resin. The final product contains 20% recycled ocean plastic by weight in its external casing or “shell.”

Magnetic separator for lithium battery powder

The quality of cathode powders such as nickel, cadmium and lithium must be optimal to guarantee the operation of a battery. Any metal contamination present in the powder reduces the quality of the material mix and leads to a battery’s short life. The automatic cleaning rotating magnetic separator filters metal particles as small as 30 μm from the poorly flowing lithium powder. Lithium is extracted from salt lakes such as the Salar de Atacama in Chile, where there are huge reserves of brine containing lithium. Some large producers process this lithium into a powder that serves as a raw material for batteries used in electric cars, laptops and mobile phones, among other things.

The magnetic separator contains nine strong, rotating magnetic bars that prevent the fine powder from sticking to the bars like a bridge. The rotating movement ensures that the product does not block on the bars, so that good deferrization is possible. The contact with the magnetic bars is therefore optimal. This is important because weakly magnetic particles in particular must touch the magnetic bars. The pneumatically operated magnetic bars of Ø50 mm have a deep catch field. With a flux density of 12,000 gauss on the bars, the magnet can capture paramagnetic particles such as iron oxide and stainless steel in addition to iron particles. The magnetic separator is dust-proof and can be cleaned automatically. The valve box in the system removes the captured metal particles on site.

Largest sorting plant in Latin America begins operation

With this facility, the city government is the first in the country to move towards a correct treatment of urban waste based on a circular economy concept – one of the priority objectives of the current administration.

Stadler supplied the cutting-edge technology to achieve this milestone. Natalya Duarte, Sales Director for Mexico at Stadler, says: “We would like to thank Mexico City for allowing us to give our contribution and take part in the great challenge of reducing waste in Mexico City, one of the most populated megacities in the world, where more than 12,000 tons of waste are generated every day.” The city government thus lays the groundwork for fulfilling its environmental responsibility, recognising the importance of complying with international agreements and the need to apply circular economy principles.

It is the country’s first government-owned automated plant for the separation and treatment of municipal solid waste. The 11,000 m2 facility sorts paper, cardboard, multilayer packaging, PET and HDPE, plastic bags and film, aluminum cans, metallized bags, textiles, glass and other metals. The plant was commissioned in May 2021. It operates in conjunction with a transfer station to process around 1,000 tons per day of waste from the municipalities of Cuauhtémoc, Gustavo A. Madero, Miguel Hidalgo and Azcapotzalco, and will be able to receive up to 1,400 tonnes of waste per day. Its operation will generate 404 jobs.

The facility is run by Pro Ambiente, a subsidiary of Cemex, which has more than 25 years of experience in waste management and in operating plants for the selection and recovery of waste-derived fuels. “We are proud to participate in this new project, which is in line with our sustainability and emission reduction objectives. We are prepared to operate this plant under a model that guarantees, first and foremost, the safety of all our employees, operational continuity through maintenance and production programs with international standards, and sorting quality to ensure a greater use of the waste generated in Mexico City,” says José Guillermo Díaz, Cemex’s manager of technology and alternative fuels.

Largest sorting plant in Latin America begins operation

With this facility, the city government is the first in the country to move towards a correct treatment of urban waste based on a circular economy concept – one of the priority objectives of the current administration.

Stadler supplied the cutting-edge technology to achieve this milestone. Natalya Duarte, Sales Director for Mexico at Stadler, says: “We would like to thank Mexico City for allowing us to give our contribution and take part in the great challenge of reducing waste in Mexico City, one of the most populated megacities in the world, where more than 12,000 tons of waste are generated every day.” The city government thus lays the groundwork for fulfilling its environmental responsibility, recognising the importance of complying with international agreements and the need to apply circular economy principles.

It is the country’s first government-owned automated plant for the separation and treatment of municipal solid waste. The 11,000 m2 facility sorts paper, cardboard, multilayer packaging, PET and HDPE, plastic bags and film, aluminum cans, metallized bags, textiles, glass and other metals. The plant was commissioned in May 2021. It operates in conjunction with a transfer station to process around 1,000 tons per day of waste from the municipalities of Cuauhtémoc, Gustavo A. Madero, Miguel Hidalgo and Azcapotzalco, and will be able to receive up to 1,400 tonnes of waste per day. Its operation will generate 404 jobs.

The facility is run by Pro Ambiente, a subsidiary of Cemex, which has more than 25 years of experience in waste management and in operating plants for the selection and recovery of waste-derived fuels. “We are proud to participate in this new project, which is in line with our sustainability and emission reduction objectives. We are prepared to operate this plant under a model that guarantees, first and foremost, the safety of all our employees, operational continuity through maintenance and production programs with international standards, and sorting quality to ensure a greater use of the waste generated in Mexico City,” says José Guillermo Díaz, Cemex’s manager of technology and alternative fuels.

Flexible film recycling capacity grows by almost 10%

The new estimate points to 2.7Mt capacity for PE film recycling with 30 new film recycling facilities, totalling 218.

Representing a demand of more than 9 million tonnes, LLDPE/LDPE is the second-largest plastic fraction in the EU market and therefore shows a major recycling potential. Today 17% of recycled flexible polyethylene already finds outlet in film-to-film applications with non-food packaging and building & construction being its largest markets, while the forecasts show that PE film products could incorporate overall as much as 38% of recycled content by 2030.

“Once deemed difficult to recycle, flexible household polyethylene waste recycling is a successful business case model of today. Fast-paced technological developments in collection, sorting and recycling, made it possible to recycle film back to film. Closed-loop recycling is the future of circular flexible plastic, placing Europe as a front runner of mechanical film recycling. This is a strong signal not only for investors but also brand owners, retailers, policy-makers and citizens,” said Ton Emans, President of Plastics Recyclers Europe and PRE LDPE-Working Group Chairman. “This does not mean that there are no challenges. The main obstacles in targeting new high-end applications are multi-layer & multi-material products, which are not in line with the Design for Recycling principles”, he added.

The growth of flexible plastic recycling, however, is set to expand thanks to the ongoing positive trends. Firstly, with extended collection schemes being implemented across the Member States to reach the EU recycling targets, the collection of flexible plastic film from households is set to grow. Secondly, better sorting technologies paired with the effort of EPR systems and sorting centres generate mono-material streams, gradually decreasing mixed polyolefin fraction. Lastly, with flexible plastic value chain players’ commitments to improving the recyclability of plastics, as well as incorporating recycled plastics in their products, demand for high-quality recycled flexible PE will further grow.

To pursue these positive trends, nevertheless, the industry players must look towards long-term solutions and not quick fixes. To give an example, the Quality Recycling Process developed by Ceflex is not in line with the objective of making flexible packaging household waste fully circular. On the contrary, it will jeopardize well-established and well-functioning recycling processes while bringing efforts of making flexible plastic packaging fully recyclable to a standstill. Implementation of this ‘so-called’ new solution will generate additional tonnages of mixed polyolefins which can be destined only to an already saturated injection moulding market that cannot absorb the important quantities coming from recycling of flexible household waste. Furthermore, using recycled materials to substitute wood, glass or metal can never be the industry target.

“Processes which propose only 20 % of the recycled film back to film applications and 80 % to injection moulding are a step backwards for our industry as they are not aligned with the principles of the circular economy”, stated Ton Emans, President of Plastics Recyclers Europe and PRE LDPE-Working Group Chairman. “It will never be a profitable business case”, he added.

If the industry is to transform flexible plastic waste management genuinely and durably towards circularity, the focus must be on further optimizing and advancing the already well-performing processes and solutions to produce the highest quality of recycled material, driving the uptake of recyclates in film applications.

Flexible film recycling capacity grows by almost 10%

The new estimate points to 2.7Mt capacity for PE film recycling with 30 new film recycling facilities, totalling 218.

Representing a demand of more than 9 million tonnes, LLDPE/LDPE is the second-largest plastic fraction in the EU market and therefore shows a major recycling potential. Today 17% of recycled flexible polyethylene already finds outlet in film-to-film applications with non-food packaging and building & construction being its largest markets, while the forecasts show that PE film products could incorporate overall as much as 38% of recycled content by 2030.

“Once deemed difficult to recycle, flexible household polyethylene waste recycling is a successful business case model of today. Fast-paced technological developments in collection, sorting and recycling, made it possible to recycle film back to film. Closed-loop recycling is the future of circular flexible plastic, placing Europe as a front runner of mechanical film recycling. This is a strong signal not only for investors but also brand owners, retailers, policy-makers and citizens,” said Ton Emans, President of Plastics Recyclers Europe and PRE LDPE-Working Group Chairman. “This does not mean that there are no challenges. The main obstacles in targeting new high-end applications are multi-layer & multi-material products, which are not in line with the Design for Recycling principles”, he added.

The growth of flexible plastic recycling, however, is set to expand thanks to the ongoing positive trends. Firstly, with extended collection schemes being implemented across the Member States to reach the EU recycling targets, the collection of flexible plastic film from households is set to grow. Secondly, better sorting technologies paired with the effort of EPR systems and sorting centres generate mono-material streams, gradually decreasing mixed polyolefin fraction. Lastly, with flexible plastic value chain players’ commitments to improving the recyclability of plastics, as well as incorporating recycled plastics in their products, demand for high-quality recycled flexible PE will further grow.

To pursue these positive trends, nevertheless, the industry players must look towards long-term solutions and not quick fixes. To give an example, the Quality Recycling Process developed by Ceflex is not in line with the objective of making flexible packaging household waste fully circular. On the contrary, it will jeopardize well-established and well-functioning recycling processes while bringing efforts of making flexible plastic packaging fully recyclable to a standstill. Implementation of this ‘so-called’ new solution will generate additional tonnages of mixed polyolefins which can be destined only to an already saturated injection moulding market that cannot absorb the important quantities coming from recycling of flexible household waste. Furthermore, using recycled materials to substitute wood, glass or metal can never be the industry target.

“Processes which propose only 20 % of the recycled film back to film applications and 80 % to injection moulding are a step backwards for our industry as they are not aligned with the principles of the circular economy”, stated Ton Emans, President of Plastics Recyclers Europe and PRE LDPE-Working Group Chairman. “It will never be a profitable business case”, he added.

If the industry is to transform flexible plastic waste management genuinely and durably towards circularity, the focus must be on further optimizing and advancing the already well-performing processes and solutions to produce the highest quality of recycled material, driving the uptake of recyclates in film applications.

Elemental Holding acquires Legend Smelting and Recycling

Under the transaction, Elemental Holding Group has acquired 100 per cent of shares in Legend Smelting and Recycling (LSR). With 40 years’ experience and a well-established reputation, LSR has a strong position in the US market for sourcing and green production of strategic metals. The company’s facilities – located in Ohio, California, Illinois, Indiana and Texas – source raw materials from all across North America, including Mexico. LSR’s annual turnover reached around USD 250m in 2020.

The acquisition of Legend Smelting and Recycling is yet another investment by Elemental Holding Group in the US strategic metal recycling segment. In December 2019, the Group took over a controlling stake in PGM of Texas, which has a large purchasing network with twelve locations across the United States, as well as a state-of-the-art processing plant and a chemical laboratory. Moreover, this May, the takeover of Maryland Core Inc. was finalized.

Krzysztof Spyra, Elemental Holding (Source: Elemental Holding)

Krzysztof Spyra, Management Board Member at Elemental Holding, commented: “The growing awareness of the global industry in the fields of ESG, computerization, electrification of the automotive industry, hydrogen technologies and the shift towards renewable energy sources generate a huge demand for precious metals, including platinum group metals (platinum, palladium, rhodium), as well as copper group metals (silver, gold). Boosting the recycling of all these crucial metals is key to meeting the growing technological and environmental challenges globally.”

“By bringing together worldwide operating companies, we invest in the latest technologies to ensure that the production process of strategic raw materials is fully sustainable and follows the best ESG practices. Further strengthening our position in the US market is an important step towards creating a global urban mining leader in the segments of strategic ‘green metals’ production and the recycling of PGMs, electronics (gold, silver, copper, aluminum), and e-mobility (nickel, cobalt, lithium).”

Elemental Holding Group is a manufacturer of economically strategic raw materials sourced in a sustainable and environment-friendly way, including through the processing of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), catalyst converters, printed circuit boards (PCBs) and non-ferrous metals. The Group is present in 15 countries across three continents: Europe, Asia and North America. Elemental Holding is one of 18 European companies (others include BASF, Solvay, Umicore, BMW, Saft, and Varta) notified by the European Commission under the European Industrial Policy, which aims to create a sustainable mobility value chain in the EU.