Skip to main content

Post-Consumer High-tech Recycled Polymers for a Circular Economy – PolyCE

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - PolyCE (Post-Consumer High-tech Recycled Polymers for a Circular Economy – PolyCE)

Reporting period: 2020-06-01 to 2021-05-31

Traditional linear manufacturing and consumption models (“take, make and dispose”) of electronic products are related to significant negative environmental externalities. Ac-cording to the UN, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is now the fastest-growing waste stream in the world with an estimated arising of 48.5 million tonnes in 2018. While metals are usually recovered from the WEEE stream because of their high material value, post-consumer recycled (PCR) WEEE plastics often end up in incineration or landfill.
Due to increased use of plastics and low recycling rates, plastics has been identified as one of the key priority areas to deal with for a sustainable future in the EU (EU action plan for the Circular Economy). Furthermore, the EC published a Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy in 2018 in order to tackle the important issue of plastics and to pave the way to a more sustainable use of this material. PolyCE joins this effort by addressing the numerous barriers related to PCR WEEE plastics recycling along the entire value chain.
Recycling of WEEE plastics has the potential to make an important contribution to create local and sustainable jobs. Estimations indicate that the enforcement of higher recycling rates could contribute to 80.000 new direct jobs by 2025, mainly in the sector of collec-tion, sorting, separation and recycling.
The objectives of PolyCE are to demonstrate circular economy solutions while re-designing the value and supply chain for plastics contained in WEEE. The project has re-designed the value chain of WEEE plastics by improving the after-use management of WEEE post-consumer plastic considering both dematerialisation concepts and the reverse logistics for end of first life. PolyCE tested alternative business models, incl. the demate-rialisation concept (including but not limited to leasing, remanufacture and longevity) with producers of plastic containing materials. PolyCE has brought key players inside the Consortium together and built a network of experts from the entire plastics supply and value chain - from virgin plastics and additives manufacturers, plastics compounders and converters, electronic manufacturers, WEEE collectors and recyclers to final consumers and policy makers. PolyCE has developed a marketplace platform for PCR plastics to enhance the market of secondary materials. PolyCE contributes significantly to reducing the environmental footprint related to virgin plastics production and to incineration and landfill. PolyCE has built awareness through EU-wide - and even beyond - awareness raising campaigns and promoted lifecycle engineering and sustainability across industry and academia through dedicated technical workshops and PolyCE Academy. The results of the project have been injected as policy input to the legislative “hot topics”.
A thorough analysis was delivered focusing on the consumer level of adoption of circular consumption models, elaboration of circular business models as well as a business case analysis.
To re-design the value chain, the first step performed was to map how WEEE streams are currently managed in Europe taking into account con-sidering WEEE flows, quantity of WEEE and types of plastics treated. In parallel, innovative collection and clustering approaches were formulat-ed. Through re-grouping of WEEE product categories based on polymer content, new WEEE clusters were tested with the overall aim to facilitate the subsequent downstream processes and increase the quantity and quality of the PCR plastics.
Building on that the project formulated concrete action points providing treatment operators with a clear set of requirements to optimize WEEE plastics pre-processing. The grading system for recycled plastics was de-veloped in close cooperation with potential customers. Relevant criteria were defined that can be implemented in the online market platform KunststoffWeb. The platform provides information on material exchange, stakeholder information and network possibilities for and with the input of all actors across the value chain. Finally, a comprehensive list of rec-ommendations on how to improve the entire value chain of plastics from WEEE was developed.
A Phase-Gate approach was further developed and tested that defines the phases in the plastic recycling supply chain and aims to assure com-pliance with end requirements and increase the confidence and value of recycled plastics, while simplifying and minimizing the testing costs.
PolyCE demonstrators showed that a PCR content between 70 % and 100 % is technically feasible. New flame retardant systems and additives as antioxidants, acid scavengers and UV stabilizers have been developed and tested in different polymeric matrix (PC/ABS, PC) in order to guaran-tee their reprocessability and fulfil the requirements demanded by the market.
Recycling scenarios and LCA models were developed in cooperation with the involved partners. The presented results of the LCAs conducted demonstrate that the environmental impact of plastics in a circular supply chain is reduced by 27 to 38 % compared to single use plastic depending on the plastic type.
Design for and from Recycling Guidelines were published and presented during a virtual workshop with almost 200 international practitioners from the field. PolyCE has been actively disseminating its learnings throughout the entire value chain of plastics from WEEE. With its PolyCE academies, the project started preparing the next generation of designers and engineers with knowledge about lifecycle thinking integration and sustainability.
A consumer campaign on the benefits of recycled plastics was launched. All campaign creative content is still being promoted via PolyCE own website and YouTube channel. A high-quality landing page and promo-tion campaign were developed with the aim to raise awareness on circu-lar consumption patterns and promote circular consumption projects and circular business models.
The research of the PolyCE project of re-designing the value and supply chain for plastics contained in WEEE is expected to substantially improve the efficient use of resources in Europe, leading to significant reduction of adverse environmental impacts, including on climate change. Further-more, a substantial reduction of the generation of residual waste is envi-sioned by applying the principles of the waste hierarchy, compared to current best practice. The project supports the creation of new business opportunities for industry (in particular SMEs) in the EU, including manu-facturing, contributing to the exploitation of EU innovative solutions, and improving the competitiveness of European enterprises in the global market for eco-innovative solutions. Furthermore, PolyCE is demonstrat-ing the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of the pro-posed approaches and main elements that a business plan should include in order to realise them, including the assessment of possible positive and negative side-effects and risks, such as those associated with harmful sub-stances potentially present in recycled materials. The results of the PolyCE project provide evidence-based knowledge for enabling framework con-ditions (such as the regulatory or policy framework) that facilitate a broader transition to the circular economy in the EU.
Philips demonstrator, around 90% PCR-ABS
dEEEterminator box
PolyCE Design for and from Recycling Guidelines
PolyCE determinator
Philips demonstrator, around 90% PCR-ABS
Philips demonstrator
SENSEO® Viva Café Eco
SENSEO® Viva Café Eco
PolyCE workshop with EVP Frans Timmermans
PolyCE dEEEterminator