Periodic Reporting for period 1 - POLYNSPIRE (Demonstration of Innovative Technologies towards a more Efficient and Sustainable Plastic Recycling)
Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2020-02-29
The overall objective of POLYNSPIRE is to demonstrate a comprehensive set of innovative, cost-effective and sustainable solutions, aiming at improving the energy and resource efficiency of the recycling processes for post-consumer (after product’s end of life) and post-industrial (produced during transformation processes from raw materials to final product) plastic containing materials. To this end, three innovation pillars are demonstrated at operational environments reaching TRL 7:
A) Chemical recycling as a path to recover plastic monomers and valuable fillers (such as carbon or glass fibres) relying on microwaves-assisted organic chemistry (implying an energy consumption reduction up to 68%) and smart magnetic catalysts (which can increase efficiency around 60%).
B) Advanced additivation for mechanical recycling processes to enhance recycled plastics quality, using vitrimers, high-energy radiation and compatibilizing additives.
These two innovative recycling approaches can lead up to a direct 34% of fossil resources reduction in the case of Polyamide (PA) and 32% for Polyurethane (PU).
C) Finally, the valorisation of plastic waste as carbon source in the steel industry, could lead to reductions of around an 80% of fossil carbon sources in electric arc furnaces (EAF).
The project concept will address 100% waste containing streams ensuring the recycling of at least a 50% of total plastics containing PA and PU leading to a reduction of CO2 equivalent emissions between 30% and 40%.Furthermore, non-technological barriers such as legislative or standardization ones are also addressed at EU level and business models to integrate the aforementioned solutions in the overall plastic waste management system will be set up
• Phase 1: Consolidating the technologies. The main objective of this stage performed during the first year of the project was consolidating the validation in a relevant environment. As a result of this first phase all the innovative technologies have been tested at lab scale and they are ready to be scaled.
• Phase 2: Widening the scope of the technologies. The project is currently overcoming this stage where, the technologies already validated in phase 1 will be up scaled and demonstrated in a relevant environment. The objective is to cover the whole TRL6 gap. At this moment, polynSPIRE partners are hardly working to overcome this phase.
Results from lab scale performed during the first phase are quite promising but there are some challenges to overcome such us: pre-treatment of samples at larger scale, especially when managing foams, and making the overall system economically profitable in comparison to the use of conventional virgin feedstock.
On the other hand, regarding the innovation C, the valorisation of polyolefin as carbon source and foaming agent in the steel sector will contribute to reduce the environmental impact of both steel industry and plastic industry due to reducing the landfilling of this type of plastic waste. In this vein, considering the existence of around 200 EAF in Europe and assuming that 20% of these furnaces will implement the injector designed during POLYNSPIRE, the use of around 20% of polyolefin based waste streams would be enough to remove at least the 80% the fossil carbon sources used in this furnaces saving 8.7Mt of CO2 equivalent and 290kt of oil equivalent in terms of fossil resources. These figures mean that apart from the direct impact in the chemical and plastic industry, POLYNSPIRE will contribute to save around 5% of the CO2 equivalent emissions in the iron and steel sector
After POLYNSPIRE, the developed business plan will ensure a proper deployment of the solutions in the plastic industry and the waste management system as a whole. This database will allow interacting waste generators and recyclers. By this way, plastic converters could find good quality plastic wastes that could fulfil their expectation, avoiding therefore to use virgin material or facing with potential quality problems in their manufacturing process. The creation of this database will contribute to the achievement of a 4.0 Recycling Industry