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Second generation Methyl MethAcrylate (MMAtwo)

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MMAtwo (Second generation Methyl MethAcrylate (MMAtwo))

Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2020-03-31

PolyMethyl MethAcrylate (PMMA) is a well-established polymer used in many industries of which about 300 000 tons 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 30 000 tons of PMMA waste from Europe is recycled annually. There is a lack of good 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 abroad. Besides, for a large part, recycling of PMMA is currently reliant on a lead-based process, which does not allow to reprocess the lower PMMA waste qualities or PMMA waste with some form of contamination such as most end-of-life (EoL) PMMA waste.
MMAtwo brings high quality recycling capacity for PMMA waste to Europe. MMAtwo’s innovative concept for PMMA waste recycling through depolymerisation will focus on handling both post-industrial and contaminated EoL PMMA waste into high quality secondary raw material. The PMMA recycling process will be validated at a TRL 7 scale, enabling the possibility of a first commercial unit soon after the end of the project (2022).
MMAtwo is supported by a consortium of 13 partners from 6 countries each representing a step in the PMMA waste value chain. 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 that can be exploited to other continents as well.
In the first 18 months progress has been booked all across the MMAtwo value chain. PMMA production waste and PMMA EoL waste was identified and collected by Heathland in collaboration with partners, in particular Comet, Ecologic, Arkema and Certech. Special focus was on glass fibre wastes and EoL wastes. All sourced wastes have been documented and specified in a PMMA waste database. Consortium partners have started working in industry guidelines to identify wastes and their properties. Such guidelines assist waste producers in dealing with PMMA wastes effectively and how to maximise value.
Heathland has finalized installation for automated pre-treatment equipment which will purify PMMA wastes before depolymerisation. The end-result are various streams of PMMA regrind which can be directly depolymerised.
Samples of pre-treated wastes were sent to Arkema, Certech, and JSW Europe for analysis and trials, to identify ideal parameters for processing in JSW Europe equipment.
Subsequently, benchmark trials for depolymerisation were performed by Arkema and Certech and foundation work was done on further design of the new MMAtwo technology. The separated fibres from the process have been used in trials by Delta Plados for usage in kitchen sinks.
JSW Europe has assembled the depolymerisation equipment and modified the extruder. Downstream processing equipment has been delivered by Heathland.
Benchmarking research was performed by Arkema investigating competitive depolymerisation systems. Benchmarking took place on MMA purity, energy consumption and water consumption. This was also compared to the production of virgin MMA in collaboration with Quantis, following the main routes of producing virgin MMA.
MMAtwo aims to produce the highest possible MMA grades from its waste and thus required properties were defined and purification trials of MMA started by Speichim which resulted in trials of the recycled product by Delta Glass and Arkema. Certech did extensive testing on the MMA odour.
In WP2, WP3, WP4 and WP5 the design was further detailed by PDC. Together with Arkema’s benchmarking and Quantis analysis this resulted in the first version of the projects LCA.
Management took place through Ayming’s platform and project tools resulting in successful partner collaboration and meetings in the first 18 months, whilst securing data management and data organization. At M18, 15 Deliverables were submitted and 4 Milestones were achieved.
UGent assisted in the theoretical support for MMAtwo technology and creation of a model for the depolymerisation process. Besides UGent established a series of dissemination efforts in collaboration with project partners to achieve wide press coverage on the project in various media, communication activities at international conferences by the partners, the project website (www.mmatwo.eu) and social media (www.linkedin.com/in/mmatwo-eu-project/). UGent is working on Workshop 1 (due at M24), which is a masterclass aiming at increasing both theoretical and practical knowledge on the principles of polymerization and depolymerisation kinetics and polymer processing. Several MMAtwo partners will participate in the workshop with practical examples from their field and the MMAtwo project.
In the current context, MMAtwo’s goals have become more relevant than ever. Exporting PMMA waste to countries outside Europe has become increasingly difficult and the need for recycling capacity of PMMA waste inside Europe is evident. At the same time awareness and demand for circular raw material is rising, spreading the MMAtwo message for PMMA recycling throughout the PMMA value chain and triggering interested parties to connect with the MMAtwo consortium.
The MMAtwo technology will be running in the next 6 months but even in the design stage it is evident that much progress has been booked in comparison with current technologies in terms of safety, ease of use, versatility of waste types accepted, reliability and high quality output whilst removing the need of unwanted lead. Hereby the input by UGent is vital. The process is modelled in detail in order to remove unwanted by-products which could reduce usability. MMAtwo will be able to produce a polymer closed-loop recycling system, whilst at the same time safeguarding significant saving on CO2, energy consumption and water consumption aside from offering a solution for unrecyclable PMMA EoL waste.
The pre-treatment process offers an automated alternative for manual labour in export countries. MMAtwo is also worldwide the largest initiative ever to identify EoL PMMA waste for effective collection and subsequent recycling.
It should be noted that since the start of MMAtwo, many companies from the industry have expressed interest in the project both on the aspect of waste recycling but also on the usage of recycled MMA in their products. The interest has been very significant and therefore a Stakeholder Event is planned to meet industry demand.