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Son Güncelleme: 28.11.2020 13:31
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Waste plastics

Over 50% virgin plastics substituted in shrink film

The innovative recycling company from Merseburg, Germany has tested the performance of its Newcycling LDPE recyclates in shrink films during several projects undertaken over the course of this past year. Primary test results showed that the recyclates were able to deliver on the key functional issue of shrinkage. Film thickness was able to be maintained at the same level as with virgin plastics. Formulation of the shrink films and extrusion parameters remained close to the virgin feedstock version.

Collation shrink film is a demanding packaging application – for virgin polymers and all the more so for recycled materials. It needs to have a specific toughness, holding force, and shrink performance for it to guarantee package integrity as well as the necessary stability for storage and transport. Process parameters should remain constant when switching from virgin to recycled feedstock. Beyond this, as the film may be used as secondary packaging for bundling several products, making it the first thing the consumer sees, optics need to be of a high-enough quality.

‘Our LDPE recyclates are suitable for a broad number of end markets. When it comes to shrink films, they represent an opportunity for the beverage industry to push its use of secondary raw materials in applications such as shrink sleeves or multipack sleeves’, explains Klaus Wohnig, CEO of APK, in discussing one of the possible target markets for the product.

During the projects that focused on multi-layer collation shrink films, ambitious substitution rates for virgin feedstock, ranging from 30% to 100%, were tested. The 30%-55% scenarios produced impressive results: the shrink film was nearly indistinguishable from that made of virgin material. Substituting virgin plastics for these amounts of secondary raw materials would already allow for a decisive reduction in emissions. Newcycling LDPE recyclates produce nearly 50% fewer emissions than virgin LDPE types.

APK’s dissolution recycling process, the Newcycling® technology, can easily separate different polymers in multilayer plastic packaging – up to now, deemed non-recyclable – and transforms the target polymer into re-granulates with close to virgin properties. Dissolution recycling is an advanced physical recycling technology. Building on a mechanical pre-treatment step, it adds a solvent-based process step, during which the target polymer is separated and purification of contaminants, such as various additives or organic residues, also takes place. APK’s recycled LDPE, used during the shrink film tests, is marketed under the Mersalen brand. It is derived from complex PE/PA multilayer film waste.

As Newcycling is a physical process and does not affect the molecular chains of the polymer, cost- and energy-intensive re-polymerisation is not needed. The technology is to be considered besides and complementary to standard mechanical recycling as well as innovative chemical processes (such as solvolysis) for this matter.

Harvesting the Urban Forest

The UK uses over 2.5 billion single-use coffee cups – enough to stretch around the world roughly five and a half times – but less than 1 in 400 – just 0.25% – are recycled. Around 500,000 cups are littered every day–an unsightly and damaging blight on our environment.

In essence these cups are technically recyclable, something that some coffee companies actively promote on their packaging, however, due to the complicated way they are produced, the vast majority of coffee cups do not end up being recycled.

Though they are made largely of paper, disposable coffee cups are lined with plastic, typically polyethylene, this is tightly bonded to the paper making the cups waterproof and therefore able to retain liquid. Recycling these coffee cups is further hampered by the fact they are contaminated with remnants of the drink they contained.

As a consequence these cups cannot be recycled at standard paper recycling plants and must instead be taken to special facilities – of which only a few exist throughout Europe.

It is time to flip this challenge on its head and take a transformational approach.

What if we viewed these cups as containing potentially valuable raw material that we can tap into, given a strong collection infrastructure?

Following years of research on paper plastic composites, Nextek has been deep diving into ways in which strong blends of paper fibre and plastics can be re-used and one of the first products to emerge is the rcup, the world’s first re-usable cup made from recycled paper cups.

Now WRAP Cymru has brought Nextek and the UK’s leading composite decking manufacturer, Ecodek, together to find a way to clean and shred the used coffee cups to produce strong polymer composites, that can be turned into a totally water proof building material which can use up to 200 cups per square meter.

This innovative approach aims to shift away from our current reliance on wood in building materials and harvest the ‘urban forest’ instead. We are quite literally surrounded by awkward to recycle materials such as plastic laminated papers or cartons that could be turned into a unique composite, that has endless possibilities.

This material has the potential to be used for multiple applications, from waterproof decking and furniture to providing structurally strong materials on a much bigger scale. Its durability, strength and versatility could easily match wood as a building material, in fact in many instances it would surpass it.

Whilst this is not the first time that used coffee cups have been given a new life, it could be a game changer in that we will be able to reuse a substantial volume of the world’s single use plastic cups and turn them into environmental friendly building material, harvested from our urban waste.

This just could be the turning point where the once maligned disposable coffee cup is turned into valuable material for everyday products.

Harvesting the Urban Forest

The UK uses over 2.5 billion single-use coffee cups – enough to stretch around the world roughly five and a half times – but less than 1 in 400 – just 0.25% – are recycled. Around 500,000 cups are littered every day–an unsightly and damaging blight on our environment.

In essence these cups are technically recyclable, something that some coffee companies actively promote on their packaging, however, due to the complicated way they are produced, the vast majority of coffee cups do not end up being recycled.

Though they are made largely of paper, disposable coffee cups are lined with plastic, typically polyethylene, this is tightly bonded to the paper making the cups waterproof and therefore able to retain liquid. Recycling these coffee cups is further hampered by the fact they are contaminated with remnants of the drink they contained.

As a consequence these cups cannot be recycled at standard paper recycling plants and must instead be taken to special facilities – of which only a few exist throughout Europe.

It is time to flip this challenge on its head and take a transformational approach.

What if we viewed these cups as containing potentially valuable raw material that we can tap into, given a strong collection infrastructure?

Following years of research on paper plastic composites, Nextek has been deep diving into ways in which strong blends of paper fibre and plastics can be re-used and one of the first products to emerge is the rcup, the world’s first re-usable cup made from recycled paper cups.

Now WRAP Cymru has brought Nextek and the UK’s leading composite decking manufacturer, Ecodek, together to find a way to clean and shred the used coffee cups to produce strong polymer composites, that can be turned into a totally water proof building material which can use up to 200 cups per square meter.

This innovative approach aims to shift away from our current reliance on wood in building materials and harvest the ‘urban forest’ instead. We are quite literally surrounded by awkward to recycle materials such as plastic laminated papers or cartons that could be turned into a unique composite, that has endless possibilities.

This material has the potential to be used for multiple applications, from waterproof decking and furniture to providing structurally strong materials on a much bigger scale. Its durability, strength and versatility could easily match wood as a building material, in fact in many instances it would surpass it.

Whilst this is not the first time that used coffee cups have been given a new life, it could be a game changer in that we will be able to reuse a substantial volume of the world’s single use plastic cups and turn them into environmental friendly building material, harvested from our urban waste.

This just could be the turning point where the once maligned disposable coffee cup is turned into valuable material for everyday products.

APK enables the use of plastic recyclates in cosmetic packaging

‘APK is committed to filling the gap between the quality of recyclates and product requirements and to achieve circularity for packaging’, affirms Klaus Wohnig, CEO, APK AG. Against this backdrop, APK mandated a detailed risk assessment and two toxicological evaluations for its Mersalen LDPE NCY recyclates. The analysis of the random recyclate samples confirmed the higher level of purity and attested to both the fulfilment of REACH requirements and conformity to the provisions set out in the General Product Safety Directive as well as in the Regulation on Cosmetic Products.

Besides PET-recyclates from drinking bottles most recycled plastics do not yet feature food contact approval. And also for cosmetic packaging only few suitable recyclate is available. Requirements are ambitious, as the packaged products do come into direct contact with the human body. If virgin plastics are to be replaced with secondary raw materials, quality standards for the use of recycled plastics in cosmetic packaging need to be defined and implemented through innovative recycling technology.

As a recycling company, APK adheres to waste legislation. However, as a manufacturer of products such as the Mersalen LDPE NCY recyclates, APK also operates within the scope of chemicals and products regulations and provides its clients with a REACH declaration.

Currently, APK uses pre-consumer LDPE/PA multilayer films as input material for the Newcycling process. The renowned testing company Eurofins performed a comprehensive migration analysis based on random samples of Mersalen LDPE NCY recyclates as well as on various pre-consumer input materials. Specific migration tests confirmed that Mersalen LDPE NCY recyclates feature a decisively higher level of purity than recyclates from standard mechanical recycling. For example, the process’ purification step resulted in an over 90% reduction of the impurity caprolactam (contained in the input material). In the different analyses, no significant amounts of substances of very high concern (SVHC) as set forth in REACH EC 1907/2006 were found.

Based on the risk assessment, two human toxicological risk evaluations were performed in 2020 by two independent toxicology experts. The purpose was to evaluate the use of Mersalen LDPE NCY recyclate types for flexible (films) and rigid (bottles) packaging applications for cosmetics such as creams (leave-on scenario) and shampoos (rinse-off scenario) as well as various personal hygiene products (e.g. sanitary towels, wet wipes, diapers, and toilet paper), all in contemplation of use by adults and for children and babies. Both evaluations concluded that Mersalen LDPE NCY recyclates are of appropriate quality and can safely be used for the applications mentioned. Mandatory legal requirements of either a more specific type, such as those for cosmetic products, as set forth in Regulation (EC) No 122372009 on cosmetic products, or the less specific legal obligations contained in the General Product Safety Directive 2001/95/EC, were fulfilled. In addition, the evaluations specified that any health problems or diseases in adults, children, and infants caused by listed non-intentionally added substances could be completely excluded.

‘To strengthen statistical representativity, APK will continue to analyse and develop the purification potential of its advanced physical solvent-based process Newcycling with regard to different pre- and post-consumer materials’, says Hagen Hanel, Head of Research and Development at APK. The ultimate aim is to achieve food contact approval for Mersalen LDPE NCY recyclates in the midterm. APK is involved in several corresponding R&D projects.

PVC upcycling project

Funded under the European Regional Development Fund (POR CALABRIA 2014-2020), the ‘PVC Upcycling’ project is led by R.ED.EL. SRL, an Italian company operating in the construction and maintenance of medium-low voltage electrical, plants in collaboration with the University of Calabria, for the management of scientific activities, and ENEA (the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development), in charge of testing the recycled materials performance.

The project focuses on electrical cables consisting mainly of metals (copper and aluminium) and PVC, with the objective of recycling the plastic component in potential secondary raw materials, PVC powder and granules, and in new civil engineering applications.

Two different applications were investigated: urban tiles, and cement-based mortars reinforced with PVC compound coming from electric cables protective sheaths.

For both applications, experimental investigations were carried out to verify mechanical strength, hygrothermal and durability properties.
The manufacturing of the urban PVC tiles consisted in a standard-mix design made of 90% of PVC powder and 10% of polyurethane resin.

These percentages have been fixed to obtain a density of the finished product as close as possible to the density of the reference one (made without R-PVC). The preparation of the compound took place through the mixing of components consisting of a secondary raw material (PVC powder) and a thermosetting polyurethane resin. The mixing phase was carried out in three different steps to ensure a more homogeneous and uniform mix.
At the end of the curing phase, the obtained specimen was satisfactory both in terms of surface flaking and density reached, and in terms of size (20×20 cm). Furthermore, the final product maintained adequate mechanical strength and surface abrasion.

The manufactured mortars were obtained by the volumetric substitution of the sand with five different percentages of plastic waste, ranging from 10% to 50%.

The waste materials used for the PVC mortar samples came from operations carried out at R.ED.EL. SRL, consisting in grinding end-of-life PVC copper cables (PVC-Cu) through a procedure that allowed the complete segregation of the conductive metal and the polymeric protective coating, producing fully disaggregated and heterogeneous mixture, subsequently separated.

All the mortars were prepared by substitution of natural aggregate with recycled plastic and showed a thermal conductivity coefficient lower than the reference mortar.

Moreover, mortars containing plastic aggregates had better thermal insulation properties than conventional ones, which help to control heat loss from building during winter and heat gain during summer.

The reduced thermal conductivity is also due to the low density, which depends both on the presence of plastic aggregates and on the increased induced porosity. This is an interesting reduction in the civil engineering field, where the potential amount of materials needed is huge.
Even though the replacement of the siliceous aggregate with PVC residues leads to a decrease in mechanical properties, opportunities in the use of these materials are not affected, especially for applications that do not require a structural function.

Finally, the reduction of water absorption by capillarity showed that the incorporation of various types of plastic aggregate can improve the permeability behaviour of cement-based composites, making them more durable in case of aggressive chemical agents and for effect of weathering environment.

The ‘PVC Upcycling’ project demonstrates that an innovative PVC cables recycling might generate further benefits in scientific, environmental, and economic terms, transforming a linear economy model into a circular economy one at higher added value.

Bioplastics successfully meets all EU safety standards

Thereby a health risk for consumers is excluded. Plastics intended to be certified as biodegradable or compostable must undergo additional tests. “Products made of bioplastics thus pass even more tests than conventional plastic products,” explains Hasso von Pogrell, Managing Director of European Bioplastics (EUBP).

In the EU, plastic products with food contact have to comply with strict regulations. These have to be met by bio-based as well as by conventional plastics. The relevant Commission Regulation, (EU) No. 10/2011, contains requirements for migration tests. A migration limit value indicates the maximum permitted quantity of an ingredient to transit into food. The limit value ensures that food contact material does not pose a health risk to consumers. In addition to the migration test, the composition of multi-component materials is checked. Only those substances and materials that have been assessed and listed in an EU overview as safe may be used in their manufacture.

Biodegradable plastics certified for industrial composting according to EU standard EN 13432 have to meet a fixed limit for heavy metals and other toxic and hazardous substances. Also, an ecotoxicity test is carried out in accordance with the OECD[1] rules. This test examines possible effects of industrial compost on plant growth and its toxicological harmlessness to microorganisms. Agricultural mulch films certified as biodegradable in soil according to EU standard EN 17033 must comply with strict SVHC[2] guidelines. This ensures that the films do not contain substances of very high concern. In addition to a further test for nitrification inhibition, EN 17033 certification also includes a procedure to exclude negative effects on soil organisms such as earthworms. A standard for the home composting of carrier bags (prEN 17427) expected to be published soon by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) will summarize all test procedures once again. “Products made of bioplastics thus undergo even more test procedures than conventional plastic products,” summarizes von Pogrell.

“The claim that products made from bio-based plastics contain harmful chemicals is untenable because of the numerous tests that are required”, criticizes von Pogrell. The EUBP executive director refers to the findings of a study recently published by a research group from the University of Frankfurt. The methodology of the study, in which bioplastics products were subjected to migration testing, is highly questionable as it differs significantly from the methodology of EU testing procedures. “Besides, the test result of the Frankfurt study does not represent a specific characteristic of bioplastics. On the contrary, the different methodology leads to the same result when testing conventional plastic products,” explains von Pogrell.

APK Relies on Coperion ZSK Extruder Technology

In contrast to chemical recycling, the polymer in this process remains unchanged and does not require energy- and cost-intensive re-polymerization. Newcycling, therefore, is highly efficient from a cost and from an environmental perspective.

Thanks to the solvent-based Newcycling treatment, as well as the devolatilization performance and gentle material handling in the ZSK extruder, the quality of the recyclates is close to that of virgin product.

This one-of-a-kind physical and solvent-based process enables clean and single-origin polyamide (PA) and polyethylene (PE) pellets with virgin-near material character to be extracted from complex PA/PE multi-layer films. These recyclates can be reused in high-quality products up to the original application. Downcycling can thus be reduced and closed-loop recycling becomes possible.

In Newcycling at APK’s Merseburg location, PA/PE multi-layer film is first mechanically pre-treated, undergoing among other things shredding and classification. Next, the PE layer is dissolved and liquefied in a solvent bath, leading to separation of the polymers and polymer layers. The undissolved PA is then separated from the dissolved PE using conventional solid-liquid separation technology and the polymers are further processed in separate material streams.

The PA is introduced into a Coperion ZSK twin screw extruder where it passes through various process sections and is processed into a high-quality PA melt using very high dispersion performance and intensive devolatilization. Finally, it is pelletized into first-class PA recyclates.

Following pre-evaporation, the PE is likewise introduced into a ZSK twin screw extruder together with the solvent. There, intensive devolatilization of the liquid takes place, precisely calibrated for this application to produce first-class results even when PE/solvent ratios fluctuate. The solvent is completely volatilized and added back into the Newcycling® process in a closed loop. PE remains in the form of a homogeneous, high-quality melt that is then pelletized. The PE recyclate possesses quality similar to that of virgin product.

PE recyclate manufactured using APK’s Newcycling technology and marketed under the brand name Mersalen, as well as PA recyclate sold under the brand name Mersamid, stand out for their high product quality and substantial reductions in emissions. Newcycling® recyclates exhibit on average 66% fewer emissions than virgin material of a given plastic. In pointing out the market potential for Newcycling recyclates, Klaus Wohnig, CEO of APK explains: “Our recyclates’ very high degree of purity has been confirmed by numerous expert reports. Mersalen for example is suited for a wide range of applications such as cosmetics packaging.” Jochen Burger, Process Engineer at Coperion, elaborated: “In APK’s innovative Newcycling process, we see a very important step along the path to a circular economy in the plastics industry. Thanks to the use of first-class technologies and comprehensive process expertise from APK and Coperion, very high-quality recyclates are being manufactured. At the same time, the process saves energy and resources because it replaces cost-intensive new plastic production. In this way, we are serving the environment and future generations. Coperion is proud to support APK in this innovative process.”

Sustainable watches from Joago

The company offers three different watches. Soleos is powered by solar energy and is made from recycled stainless steel 316. The Eos watch is also made from recycled stainless steel 316 and comes with a high-quality Japanese movement. It comes with a high function moon phase. Terra is made from the same material and also has a Japanese movement. According to the company, it was Designed by studying the simplicity and beauty of our planet earth”. The straps of the watches are either made from ocean waste collected from coastal areas in Southeast Asia or from pineapple waste from the Philippines.

At the moment, the company is working on a kickstarter project to fund a non-profit organisation in Dakar, Senegal, which according to the company is one of most polluted areas in the world. The company wants to work on coral reef farming to rebuild marine ecosystems as well as collect and up-cycle the ocean waste. Supportes can purchase the watches at a lower price during the kickstarter project. The company also states that it will pull one pound of trash out of the oceans from each purchase which will be reused to create the ocean waste products.

Learn more about the company

Sustainable watches from Joago

The company offers three different watches. Soloes is powered by solar energy and is made from recycled stainless steel 316. The Eos watch is also made from recycled stainless steel 316 and comes with a high-quality Japanese movement. It comes with a high function moon phase. Terra is made from the same material and also has a Japanese movement. According to the company, it was Designed by studying the simplicity and beauty of our planet earth”. The straps of the watches are either made from ocean waste collected from coastal areas in Southeast Asia or from pineapple waste from the Philippines.

At the moment, the company is working on a kickstarter project to fund a non-profit organisation in Dakar, Indonesia, which according to the company is one of most polluted areas in the world. The company wants to work on coral reef farming to rebuild marine ecosystems as well as collect and up-cycle the ocean waste. Supportes can purchase the watches at a lower price during the kickstarter project. The company also states that it will pull one pound of trash out of the oceans from each purchase which will be reused to create the ocean waste products.

Learn more about the company

New polystyrene recycling project

Working together with leading European research institutes in the project will allow the company to build up expertise related to recycling via dissolution.

Styrenics are amongst the most recyclable polymers. Ineos Styrolution has a proven record of investing into basic research on advanced recycling technologies . This includes completing the first lab-scale production of virgin polystyrene from depolymerised material3 and driving the commercialisation of enhanced recycling of polystyrene forward . Developing expertise on recycling via dissolution contributes to an in-depth understanding of the material’s properties.

The “Remove2Reclaim” project aims at developing innovative solvent-based extraction routes to remove additives, such as titanium dioxide, from different polymer matrices and to reuse both titanium dioxide and polymer in new products. Targeted polymers in the project include polystyrene, HIPS (high impact polystyrene) and ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene). For Ineos Styrolution, this dissolution route complements the existing mechanical and depolymerisation recycling projects, rounding up the understanding of the broad range of recycling technologies available for styrenics.

The “Remove2Reclaim” project is funded by the Flemish Agency of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Vlaams Agentschap voor Innovatie en Ondernemen – VLAIO) and organised under the umbrella of the Flemish spearhead cluster Catalisti. Research partners include Ghent University, KU Leuven (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) as well as VITO (Flemish Institute for Technological Research in Mol) and Centexbel (Kortrijk-Gent). INEOS Styrolution becomes one of five industry partners signed up in this project.