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

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CREAToR (Collection of raw materials, Removal of flAme reTardants and Reuse of secondary raw materials)

Reporting period: 2019-06-01 to 2020-11-30

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 because 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 subsequently 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 costs of >180 €/t - 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.
The results from the first 18 months of CREAToR are:
• Definition of material requirements for material recyclers and reusers
• Material inventories for the building, construction and electrical and electronic equipment waste streams
• Laser induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) based sorting of brominated and bromine-free polymer parts
• Batch extraction of brominated polymers with sc-CO2 and NADES liquids to purify the polymer
• Development of material recipes for reuse of the recycled polymers in insulation boards, automotive and aeronautic interior parts
• Development of new, cost-efficient and ecofriendly FR compositions for polymers
• Analysis of current supply chains in the recycling industry
• Life cycle inventory for the CREAToR processes
Progress and expected results:
The innovation potential in 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 purification) from non-contaminated streams (for direct reuse). For the LIBS, models are being researched for the automated inline recognition and classification of plastics wastes containing BFR additives. The potential of mid-wave infrared spectroscopy for the polymeric detection of the technical plastics will also be investigated. A combination between XRF and GC-MS-analysis will ensure compliance with all regulations.
• Material purification to remove the FRs
Extractive extrusion using scCO2 and NADES will be tailored to remove the hazardous FRs, in terms of the need for/ nature of cosolvents, the process conditions and the recovery of the extraction material. The FRs will be concentrated in the scCO2 stream and safely disposed of. For this process safe operation procedures and best practice guides will be established, to enable the technology to be transferred to other sectors after CREAToR.
• Reusing the generated secondary raw materials
The challenge is to replace the legacy FR by an ecofriendly but still economically viable substitute. The recipe is a balance between cheap materials (nanoparticles or a mix of metallic oxides and hydroxides) and specialized materials (aluminium trihydroxide of medium purity and size as a chemical barrier). The mechanical properties of the purified materials are optimised for reuse 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 to transport and store materials ensure information flow among the network participants. Despite its theoretical foundation, it will allow an operational derivation of a specific logistics concept for an individual reverse cycle network. It will also consider economic aspects to ensure that the specific design of a closed loop supply chain is economically feasible. Transportation costs, purification costs and possible revenues will thus be included in the simulation model. The method will act as a decision-support tool to assess possible supply chain designs for a new waste stream for centralised purification and recycling.
• Creating a harmonised classification of the material purity
CREAToR will introduce a smart labelling system indicating 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 its purity. The classification will label any outgoing polymer stream from the recycling step.
Potential impacts:
CREAToR will impact the construction, aerospace and automotive sectors represented in the consortium 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 in the assorted waste streams, there is currently no market for these materials. Recyclers thus have no incentive 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 them, and provide a high quality secondary raw material. As the market demand for recycled polymers is rising, it can be assumed that the purified polymers will be worth 75 % of virgin polymers.
An obvious impact of CREAToR is that less materials will be landfilled and/or incinerated.
CREAToR aims for a social impact through the creation of more than 4 500 jobs in the EU in the short term, in the collection, purification and sustainable reuse of secondary raw materials.
Furthermore, CREAToR will 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, increase acceptance of recycled plastics and generate trust in the purification systems developed. The project may also generate awareness of other hazardous substances in virgin plastics.
Finally, CREAToR will monitor and ensure that hazardous substances are removed from materials that come into contact with people and the environment. As the substances tackled are all defined as persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic, this is an important environmental and health impact.
2D demonstrator for automotive application
WEEE stream at Coolrec
EPS in the waste stream at VOLBAS
Figure 4: Schematic diagram of a building demonstrator (ETICS), 1: thermal insulation board
Casing of a UAV in the aviation industry
Bracket in the aviation industry
CREAToR logo