Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MultiCycle (Advanced and sustainable recycling processes and value chains for plastic-based multi-materials)
Reporting period: 2018-11-01 to 2020-04-30
As such, to support significant technological advancements to meet such strategy and with an overarching mission to maximise the valorisation of our finite plastic resources, MULTICYCLE is developing a tailored sustainable process approach to the recycling of thermoplastic-based multi-materials to enable their use in multiple life cycles. Our process will be demonstrated in two main large volume applications:
1. Multilayer packaging (including PET, PE, PP and barrier layers) but also flexible films that cannot be recycled cost effectively to date. This accounts for around 50% of plastic packaging, i.e. ca. 10 mio tons/year in EU.
2. Fibre reinforced thermoplastics (FRP) (e.g. PA or PP matrix, long glass or carbon fibres). Plastic parts constitute around 16% of EU End-of-Life Vehicles wastes, i.e. ca. 1 mio tons/y.
Nowadays multilayer plastic films are needed to pack gas sensitive goods and their share on the packaging market is increasing (in some cases flexible barrier solutions even substitute rigid packaging), they are not recycled in practice, since pure polymers are needed for reprocessing, and the vast majority of them end up in landfill or energy recovery systems. In fact, even small monolayer films as used for pouches, lids, etc. are difficult to handle in the context of current mechanical recycling plants and only rarely recycled.
Furthermore, there is an increasing use of fibre reinforced plastic parts in the transport industry especially for lightweight purposes. Nevertheless, the mechanical recycling of composites poses several limitations like high energy consumption, partial polymer degradation and downgrading the fibre length due to the grinding needed before reprocessing. Therefore, recovered materials are often directed to low value applications or only a minor recycled material fraction can be mixed with virgin materials to avoid deteriorating parts properties.
The process for recycling packaging and automotive materials is being upscaled in an industrial pilot plant that has been built and will include in the next months a smart control system based on Process Analytical Technologies. In terms of subsequent reprocessing, any adjustment in performance for the secondary use is handled by optimising the compound formulation. In order to facilitate wide market adoption, the characterisation of reprocessed materials and accessible applications thereof is given utmost attention to match specified requirements for their secondary use (e.g. packaging for food & personal care applications and textiles-based reinforced & composites automotive parts). The potential to substitute a high amount of virgin materials will be a key pull strategy for the recycling value chain and for reducing the overall carbon footprint of the plastics industry along multiple life cycles. The economic viability of the MULTICYCLE process is being calculated and compared with other solutions whenever available. In addition, life cycle analysis and costs assessments will demonstrate the most sustainable EoL approach.
This will result in many complementary potential socio-economic impacts (more details in section 1.3):
• More efficient & sustainable processing technologies using plastic waste as feedstocks to produce added-value products. Improved enforcement of plastic EoL-related policies to lower environmental burden. Decreased utilisation of primary fossil resources by > 30% and CO2 emissions by >20% in the process industries
• At least 2 patent filings expected. New revenues from the commercialisation of recycling plants and of recycled materials
• A concerted circular value chain approach to maximise the prospects of the necessary systemic changes
• Visibility as a leading CE initiative through our Circular Plastics Helix. Effective dissemination of major innovation outcomes to the current/ next generation of employees in the SPIRE sectors, through the development of learning resources with flexible usability.