Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Collection of raw materials, Removal of flAme reTardants and Reuse of secondary raw materials

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - CREAToR (Collection of raw materials, Removal of flAme reTardants and Reuse of secondary raw materials)

Reporting period: 2020-12-01 to 2022-05-31

Flame retardants (FRs) are chemicals added to materials to prevent the start or spread of a fire. They have been used in numerous consumer and construction products since the 1970s, but many have now been banned as they can remain in the environment for years, accumulating to toxic levels. Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) are among these. CREAToR is developing a process to remove BFRs from polymer waste materials in the building, construction, electrical and electronic equipment and aviation sectors. Even better, CREAToR aims to create a circular economy, revalorising the purified materials for use in new insulation panels for buildings and also for interior automotive and aerospace components.
CREAToR focuses on process development and demonstration to identify and sort hazardous, already banned BFRs from waste streams and remove them using continuous purification technologies: supercritical-CO2 and cost-effective solvent-based processes using natural deep eutectic solvents (NADES) in twin-screw extruders. It will also establish an optimised logistic concept and a harmonised material quality classification scheme.
Consequently, CREAToR will transform waste streams - that are currently incinerated at high costs of into value-bringing secondary raw materials. The economic viability of CREAToR will be validated through material benchmarking and LCA/LCC assessment for the whole value chain resulting in next generation products.
CREAToR has delivered on various areas of work during the first 36 months. First, material inventories and material requirements have been elaborated from the perspective of the manufacturers, recyclers and reusers of the materials. For the identification and sorting a LIBS-based pilot line has been set up (Gaiker) and a calibration model for WEEE plastics has been developed. Furthermore for the subsequent purification of the polymers the pilot line for extractive extrusion using CO2 and NADES liquids is now also established (Fraunhofer ICT) and an analysis protocol for the reproducible measurement of the brominate flame retardants has been developed and validated.
The project has already successfully demonstrated reusable material recipes through the manufacture of injection-moulded automotive interior parts and 3D-printed tensile bars. Newly developed environmentally friendly flame retardants were integrated into the recipes for the 3D printing filaments. In the area of logistics the project delivered a methodology to design new logistic chains, which is currently under validation.
The innovation potential realised within CREAToR relates to:
• Online and offline identification and sorting of hazardous FR containing polymers
LIBS will be combined in recycling lines with float-sink technology, electrostatic sorting or dismantling processes, able to separate BFR contaminated waste streams. For the LIBS technology, models based on Partial Least Square regression algorithms are being researched for the automated inline recognition and classification of plastics wastes containing BFR additives. The potential of the mid-wave infrared spectroscopy for the polymeric detection of the technical plastics will also be investigated. A combination of XRF and GC-MS-analysis will ensure compliance with all regulations.
• Material purification to remove the FRs
The extractive extrusion process using scCO2 and NADES in extrusion will be tailored to remove the hazardous contaminants. Depending on the polymer matrix and the FR to be extracted, suitable extraction materials will be selected. The extraction will be investigated in terms of the process conditions, and the recovery of the extraction material will be considered. The hazardous FRs will be concentrated in the scCO2 stream and safely disposed of.
• Reusing the generated secondary raw materials
The main challenge is to replace the legacy FR by an environmentally friendly but still economically viable substitute. To achieve this, the recipe is a balance between cheap and specialized materials.
The mechanical properties of the purified materials are optimised for the reusing applications in building and construction insulation panels, and automotive and aeronautics interior parts.
• An optimised logistics concept
CREAToR will develop a reverse cycle design and evaluation method for reverse cycle logistics. The method will consider all processes and coordination mechanisms needed for the transportation and storage of materials as well as the flow of information within the network. Despite its theoretical foundation, it will allow an operational derivation of a specific logistics concept for an individual reverse cycle network. Furthermore, the method will consider economic aspects to ensure that the design of a closed loop supply chain for a specific network is economically feasible.
• Creating a harmonised classification of the material purity
CREAToR will introduce a smart labelling system that indicates the components of the (purified) waste streams, showing the success of the purification and linking this with material properties. The classification will include information on the mechanical characteristics of the material and purity from hazardous substances.
Potential impacts
CREAToR will impact the sectors represented in the consortium (construction, aerospace and automotive) as it will target aerospace components, building materials and automotive interior components. The recycling technology can be upscaled to plastic recycling companies outside the consortium.
Due to the uncertain material properties and the likely presence of hazardous substances - forbidden by RoHS, REACH and the SVHC list - in the assorted waste streams, there is at present no market to sell these materials. Currently it is not of commercial interest for recyclers to provide any fraction on the market arising from FR polymers. Instead the materials are disposed as a (hazardous) waste fraction.
CREAToR will develop routes to securely identify the presence of hazardous substances in the waste streams, to remove these contaminants, and to provide a high quality secondary raw material. As the market demand for recycled polymers is constantly rising, it can be assumed that the purified polymers will be worth 75 % of virgin polymers.
A clear environmental impact of CREAToR is that less materials will be landfilled and/or incinerated. Hence environmental aspects are a key driving factor.
CREAToR aims for a social impact due to the creation of more than 4 500 jobs in the EU in the short term. As CREAToR comprises partners from the whole value chain, simultaneously a market push and a market pull will be created, strengthening the collection, purification and sustainable reuse of secondary raw materials.
CREAToR will also ensure the implementation of more secondary raw materials in products, including their labelling. It will thus bring more EU citizens into contact with recycled materials. The labelling and certification systems will further increase acceptance of recycled plastics by EU citizens, and generate trust in the purification systems developed. The project may also generate awareness about other hazardous substances in virgin plastics. Overall, CREAToR will generate a market pull and also a demand from citizens for reused materials, closing the loop into the circular economy and hence contributing to the EC’s circular economy roadmap.
CREAToR logo