Skip to main content

Tribo-electric cable plastics recycling

Exploitable results

In Europe 400.000-tonnes of plastics from cable recovery are put to landfill each year. Cables contain various materials, such as PVC, metals, polyethylene and rubber. During the TRICARE project a recycling method was developed to recycle the PVC content of these cables. When a PVC-rubber mixture is re-processed, the rubber degrades and causes air bubbles resulting in a low PVC quality. Therefore the aim of this project "Tribo-electric cable plastics recycling" (TRICARE ) was to recycle the PVC by establishing a dry-method for the separation of PVC, rubber and PE from cable scrap. The TRICARE project started in September 1998, which was possible thanks to the co-funding of the European Commission (Brite Euram Program). The co-ordination of the project was done by KEMA (NL), with the following partners participating; Cunha Barros (PT), Hamos (DE), Solvay (BE), Tecnometal (IT). The charging-principle is based on the fact that materials get a positive or negative charge, when there is contact with other materials. After charging the particles, it can be separated by an electrostatic field. During the TRICARE project, a way has been developed which makes the electrical charge-gap between rubber- and PVC –particles, of the shredded cables, as large as possible. The type of pre-treatment, types of charge, process control and equipment have done this. The final results were as numbers: 90% PVC recovery, 85-89% PVC grade. The recycled PVC was upgraded with the VinyLoop® process and re-used in the cable processing industry, a new cable was produced with recycled PVC material. Also the recycled PVC can be used for other applications, like cables, shoe soles, garden-hoses etc. With the possibility to re-use PVC in high quality products like power cables, a major landfill problem can be solved. The development of a dry separation technique based on Tribo-electric charging is unique in the recycling business. The techniques and know-how developed in this project have paved a way for future material separation, like other polymer mixtures: from tubes, cars, other E&E products and even for the mineral-sand separation. The result of the project is a dry recycling-process with low energy consumption. This process requires less manpower contrary to existing recycling-methods. Besides, there are no other additives necessary. Other advantage for this method is that there are no liquid or gaseous emissions and no wastewater is produced. A major side effect of the designed process should be an almost halogen-free waste fraction, for which alternative applications can be very feasible (more research is necessary in this field).