European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results

Second generation Methyl MethAcrylate (MMAtwo)

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - MMAtwo (Second generation Methyl MethAcrylate (MMAtwo))

Reporting period: 2021-10-01 to 2022-09-30

PolyMethyl MethAcrylate (PMMA) is a well-established polymer used in many industries of which about 300 kT of PMMA is produced in Europe every year, or close to 1 billion Euro of market value. Although PMMA can be turned back into its monomer by thermal depolymerisation, thus saving resources, water and CO2 emission, it is estimated that currently only 30 kT of PMMA waste from Europe is recycled annually of which less than 6 kT within Europe. There is a lack of quality recycling capacity for PMMA waste within Europe, which has become a more pressing problem since export markets closed their borders for polymer waste from Europe. Furthermore, recycling of PMMA is currently reliant on a lead-based process, which does not allow to reprocess poor quality PMMA waste with some form of contamination such as most end-of-life (EoL) PMMA waste, additives, fillers and/or composite/fibre waste.
MMAtwo brings high quality recycling capacity for PMMA waste to Europe. MMAtwo’s innovative concept for PMMA waste recycling through continuous, lead-free depolymerisation with a low energy footprint is able to handle both post-industrial and contaminated EoL PMMA waste and convert it into high quality regenerated MMA. The PMMA recycling process has been validated at a TRL7, enabling the possibility of commercialization soon after the end of the project (2022). LCA data have confirmed environmental benefits compared to the best scoring virgin MMA production process, the C2 process, as follows: 83% CO2 reduction, 99% water reduction, 94% fossil fuel use reduction.
The MMAtwo consortium of 16 partners from 7 countries represent the different steps in the PMMA waste value chain, as well as their academic and environmental impacts. Thus, besides developing a new concept for PMMA recycling, MMAtwo also creates a new value chain for PMMA waste in which producers, waste collectors, processors, end-users and the academic community all work together to accomplish a streamlined recycling of European PMMA waste whilst establishing a business model blueprint that can be copied to other continents as well.
With MMAtwo finishing in September 2022, it can be concluded that the project has been able to surpass its originally set goals for the individual consortium partners and for the project as a whole. PMMA production waste and PMMA EoL waste was identified and collected by Heathland in collaboration with Groupe Comet, Ecologic, Arkema, Trinseo and Certech. Special focus was on challenging PMMA waste for the 5th and 6th campaigns, including glass fibre wastes, EoL wastes (PMMA LCD and PMMA carlight), PMMA/PVC waste and PMMA with additives such as rubber (high impact PMMA). All sourced wastes were documented and specified in a PMMA waste database. Certech and Heathland made industry guidelines to help suppliers identify waste and maximise its value. MSDS and SDS were made for rMMA (crude and refined) and purified PMMA. A system was developed to analyse the XT/INJ content vs cast content in a pre-grinded waste. An alternative to PVC gaskets, used in PMMA sheet casting, was developed by Heathland to support recycling.
Heathland processed PMMA waste through automated pre-treatment equipment which purifies PMMA waste before depolymerisation. Pre-treated waste was sent to Arkema, Certech, and JSW Europe for analysis and the trials. The separated fibres from the process were used by Delta Plados in the production of kitchen sinks.
JSW Europe assembled the depolymerisation equipment and modified the extruder. Downstream processing equipment was been modified by Suster, Arkema and Heathland. The equipment was upgraded after each campaign with a major upgrade before the final campaign. 6 successful campaigns were executed producing significant amounts of regenerated MMA.
Research on MMA purity, CO2 emissions, energy consumption and water consumption was performed by Arkema benchmarking competitive depolymerisation systems. Together with data by Quantis this resulted in an LCA showing the environmental benefits of MMAtwo versus virgin MMA production and competitive technologies.
High purity regenerated MMA was produced by Speichim which converted crude MMA into refined MMA through various purification steps. The rMMA was used by Delta Glass, Delta Plados, Arkema, Procoat and Trinseo in various on-spec products as an alternative to virgin MMA. Certech did extensive testing on rMMA odor issues. The design was further detailed by PDC and a technoeconomic assessment was made showing commercial viability.
UGent provided modelling for the MMAtwo technology to optimize the process. Besides UGent organized the projects disseminations such as several events, scientific publications and a book. Benkei managed the project from beginning to end.
MMAtwo is currently relevant as there is a lot of PMMA waste in Europe (estimated at around 300 kT annually) and insufficient capacity (6 kT) or suitable technology to in Europe to recycle it. Exporting PMMA waste to countries outside Europe has become increasingly difficult with new regulation by the Basel Convention in place since 2021, resulting in the need for Europe to recycle its own waste. At the same time awareness of carbon footprints and demand for circular raw material are gaining, strengthening MMAtwo’s business case.
The MMAtwo technology has now been thoroughly tested over the course of 4 years and 6 campaigns. Feedstock and pretreatment has been proven by Heathland. Depolymerization has been proven by Japan Steel Works Europe. Purification by Speichim. The market has been identified by Heathland. Successful end use of the regenerated MMA has been proven by Delta Glass, Delta Plados, Arkema, Procoat and Trinseo. The impact has been clarified through an LCA by Quantis and the economic viability by PDC.
This has resulted in a recent announcement by Trinseo and Japan Steel Works Europe on commercializing the technology and results.
Landfill of PMMA waste