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

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NONTOX (Removing hazardous substances to increase recycling rates of WEEE, ELV and CDW plastics)

Reporting period: 2020-12-01 to 2022-11-30

The majority of plastics coming from the Waste from Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), End-of-Life Vehicles (ELV) and Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste is currently not recycled. The recyclability of the targeted plastics is influenced by the presence of polluting substances and the heterogenicity of the materials. Unfortunately, thermal treatment and landfill are the only viable options now as the mechanical recycling is not able to depollute polluted plastics. In this framework, the NONTOX project had the aim of increasing the recycling rates of plastics waste containing hazardous substances by developing and optimising recycling processes to produce safe and high-quality secondary plastic materials and by optimising the overall process economics by integration. The whole value chain was considered: sorting and pre-treatment techniques, recycling technologies but also post-treatment techniques. Valorisation of by-products and removed substances was also considered to enhance potential applications.The NONTOX system can actively help in the reduction of emissions of harmful gases and CO2 in the atmosphere, meeting the European plastic recycling targets and reducing the amount of hazardous plastic waste under the cap of the circular economy.
WP1 - Characterisation, Pretreatment and safe handling. The active hyperspectral sensor (AHS) prototype was developed and successfully tested online in a relevant operation environment for real-time detection of bromine in selected waste plastic streams. Highly accurate prediction models were developed to classify plastic pieces according to a bromine concentration threshold. The AHS sensor achieved classification accuracy of up to 86%, and online testing demonstrated robust sensor performance with respect to operation conditions. Reaching as low bromine detection threshold as 500 mg/kg (as required by EU legislation) is however still a challenge necessitating further work in the future. The reduction of halogens up to 85% using mechanochemical dehalogenisation has been achieved. The MODIX extruder was developed and tested for pre-treatment of various challenging feedstocks with moderate-to-high bromine contents. The effectiveness of the MODIX pre-treatment for compacting and homogenizing for pyrolysis was demonstrated for various plastic waste feedstocks from WEEE and CDW. Thermal dehalogenation efficiency was investigated using several feedstocks with up to ~3500 ppm of Br.

WP2 - Novel dehalogenation methods. In CreaSolv trials an average purification efficiency of 98% has been achieved. It was shown that also in the upscaling trials a removal of the hazardous substances up to 98% is possible. VOCs of ELV streams were reduced in Extruclean purification. With respect to brominated flame-retardants purification, Extruclean has not yet achieved that efficiency level.

WP3 - Valorisation of non-target polymers and safe utilisation of contaminants. Thermal pyrolysis of plastic waste with low halogen content was validated in a fluidized bed reactor. Extensive work was carried out to upgrade the catalytic pyrolysis oils via catalytic hydrodehalogenation (HDH). The coupling of catalytic pyrolysis and HDH (direct or indirect tandem) in continuous operation mode was evaluated. Indirect tandem configuration provided oil yields above 70 % and 99.8% dehalogenation degree, reaching the NONTOX targets during the first hour of time on stream. Feasibility to regenerate and reuse the catalysts was confirmed. The analysis of the halogen distribution along the products confirmed their safe disposal.

WP4 - Valorisation of recylates. Several demonstrators have been chosen and materials are under development. Eco-design is an integral part of the process. Seven main demonstration cases towards diverse applications were developed, such as GENERAL-PURPOSE ROTOMOLDING MATERIALS and the VACUUM CLEANER BASE. Variety of polymer recyclates such as PC, ABS, HIPS, PP, PE from WEEE, ELV and C&DW sources were used.

WP5 - Framework analysis and activities to enhance recycling. The legislative and policy framework was presented in a way that enables understanding of the relation between waste and chemical legislation and the different driving forces behind them, as well as the requirements for different stakeholders throughout the value chain. Through stakeholder engagement in the form of workshops and interviews, solutions for overcoming barriers for circularity in the sector were found. Some key policy recommendations for facilitating circularity were presented together with four other HEU projects in a joint policy brief. Finally, also eco-design recommendations that support circularity were disseminated in a web-page aimed to be further developed after the project end.

WP6 - Environmental and Socio - Economic assessment. Potential environmental and social impacts by LCAs showed that NONTOX schemes increase the amount of recycled waste plastics sent to recycling, by reducing those sent to disposal. Through the development of a technoeconomic assessment and preliminary business plan, the economic feasibility of the NONTOX plant-level concept has been evaluated considering a realistic plant level capacity and an European level waste polymer shares for WEEE and ELV plastics. A cash flow analysis has been carried out for three different scenarios: Netherlands, Sweden and Italy. While for the Netherlands, the Net Present Value was negative, for both Italy and Sweden, NPV was positive with the parameters applied. Finally, a SWOT analysis has been done to provide a comprehensive overview of technical, environmental, social, and economic aspects of the proposed NONTOX management schemes for WEEE/ELV/C&DW plastics.

WP7 – Communication, Dissemination and Exploitation. A communication plan was produced and implemented through setting up communication channels and profiles, attending to several events such conferences, fairs, workshops by project partners. Finally, an exploitation strategy was implemented for each identified Key Exploitable Results (KER). In the roadmap for the technological KERs, partners share the willing to obtain the licencing of the technologies. Intermediate steps will be applying to new EU projects to increase the TRL of the technologies.
Following objectives were achieved:
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.
Final Infographic
NONTOX framework