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Removing hazardous substances to increase recycling rates of WEEE, ELV and CDW plastics

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - NONTOX (Removing hazardous substances to increase recycling rates of WEEE, ELV and CDW plastics)

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

Globally, the current waste management systems lack necessary recycling tools and incentives to increase the capacity in recycling plastic waste. This is especially true for plastic waste that pose health and environmental risks due to the presence of hazardous additives such as flame-retardants and plasticizers. NONTOX project aims to increase the recycling rates of hazardous plastic waste originating from three significant waste streams; Waste Electrical and Electronics Equipment (WEEE), End of life Vehicles (ELV) and Construction and Demolition Waste (C&DW). Currently, due to the absence of regulations and appropriate technological solutions to such materials, Incineration and landfilling is still practiced. Recycling these materials reduces the demand for virgin materials and keep the value of the once manufactured material intact. To ensure circularity new materials and products need to be designed to be circular.

The main objectives of NONTOX are to:
1. Develop recycling technologies to extract hazardous substances and produce high quality recycled plastics.
2. Develop techniques to efficiently sort, characterize and pretreat the plastic waste to improve the recycling process.
3. Increase the efficiency, sustainability and competitiveness of the whole value chain by converting the reject materials into valuable products such as fuels and chemicals.
4. Boost the market uptake of plastic recycling value chains by a systematic evaluation of potential techniques to upgrade recyclates thorough life-cycle assessment of the economic, social and environmental impacts.
In order to achieve the project objectives, the different work packages and the work related is systematically linked to specific objectives. A summary of the main results achieved so far in technical work packages is presented below.

WP1 - Characterisation, Pretreatment and safe handling. This work package is directly contributing to objective 2, actions so far are: 1) Create a thorough understanding of the main flows of WEEE, ELV, and C&DW in EU and some other countries. 2) Create a safety handbook for technologies of the NONTOX concept. 3) Develop an IR-based sensing technology to efficiently sort bromine containing plastics. So far 80% efficiency in identification of bromine in plastic waste at lab scale has been achieved. 4) Test mechanochemical dehalogenation technique for the destruction of brominated flame retardants at lab scale. A reduction of halogens up to 85% has been achieved. 5) Implement pretreatment technology called MODIX that can homogenize, compact and dehalogenate the plastic waste. Four types of plastic wastes have efficiently been homogenized and compacted so far, and dehalogenation efficiency is currently under investigation.

WP2 - Novel dehalogenation methods. This work package is aimed at developing recycling technologies (CreaSolv® and Extruclean) that can extract hazardous elements from plastics and enable efficient recycling and links to objective 1. During period 1, CreaSolv® technology has been able to purify different polymers with the dehalogenation efficiency up to 98% at laboratory and small-technical scale. Extruclean technology has demonstrated to purify the volatile components of plastic waste streams from ELV and – to a lower extent - brominated flame retardants from ABS, HIPS and polyolefins.

WP3 - Valorisation of non-target polymers and safe utilisation of contaminants. This work package links to objective 3 and aims to valorize the rejects from CreaSolv® and Extruclean but also non-target polymers from the target streams. Currently, the thermochemical conversion techniques has been proven at lab scale to convert rejects and non-target polymers to valuable hydrocarbons using catalytic pyrolysis technique. An average of 74 wt.% of the feedstock is converted to pyrolysis oil while at the same time dehalogenation efficiency has been up to 85%. The yield and purity will be further improved and strategies to safely utilize the contaminants will be explored.

WP4 - Valorisation of recylates. This work package contributes to objectives 1, 3, and 4 and aims to upgrade recycled polymers to increase their applicability in high performance conventional and new applications. This work package The work has focused on understanding and improving the quality of the recycled polymers obtained from the recycling technologies and on finding appropriate applications with focus on appliances and construction materials. Several demonstrators have been chosen and materials are under development. Eco-design is an integral part of the process.

WP5 - Framework analysis and activities to enhance recycling. The work package linked to objective 4 and reviews the legislation and policies relating to NONTOX value chains and concept. Currently, a thorough review of the relevant legislation and policies have been made and presented as a deliverable. This work will also be transformed into an easy-to-read report that will enable the stakeholders to understand the legislative boundaries easily.

WP6 - Environmental and Socio - Economic assessment. This work package is directly contributing to objective 4. The work has started with the acquisition of basic data related to waste plastics quality and quantity, and the related burdens for the LCA and economic calculation. The current management of the target plastics in Europe has been quantified from environmental and economic points of view. NONTOX management scheme has been made. The Goal and Scope definition (G&SD), preliminary Techno Economic analysis and initial LCA work has been accomplished.

WP7 – Communication, Dissemination and Exploitation. This work package aims to ensuring dissemination and exploitation the NONTOX activities and results, thus, supports all work packages with their objectives. During period 1, a communication plan was produced and implementation of it began, e.g. through setting up communication channels and profiles (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, website). Several events such conferences, fairs, workshops were attended by project partners presenting the project. Finally, an exploitation strategy was also implemented.
We expect to achieve the objectives by the end of the project. So far, the project has progressed well, by the end of the project, we expect
1. To be able to disseminate, reliable statistics on the WEEE, ELV and CDW flows in Europe and particularly the state of art on hazardous plastic waste treatment options.
2. To demonstrate robust IR-based sorting technique that allows rapid determination of brominated plastics.
3. To develop and demonstrate CreaSolv® and Extruclean techniques at TRL 5 to treat hazardous plastic waste to yield high quality recycled polymers.
4. To demonstrate thermochemical recycling technology in safely valorizing the most challenging feedstock into valuable hydrocarbon feedstock.
5. To demonstrate the use of recycled polymers, in different applications, adhering to Eco-design principles to ensure circularity.
6. The identification of gaps in relevant legislations and policies surrounding the treatment of hazardous plastic waste.
7. To thoroughly assess the life cycle and main societal and environmental impacts of the NONTOX concept.
NONTOX framework