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Lampack Report Summary

Project ID: 736010

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Lampack (A new method for separation full recovery of multilayer packaging waste to create high value materials - LAMPACK)

Reporting period: 2016-10-01 to 2017-03-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The food manufacturing sector has been producing multi-layered packaging since the 1970s. Multi-layered packaging offers a combination of properties that one polymer alone cannot provide (e.g. moisture, oxygen, light barrier, stiffness, clarity, gloss etc); typically comprised of layers of PET/PP/PE/PA. Over 40m tonnes p.a. of multilayered plastics are produced globally, of which the EU contributes 9.6m tonnes, with an expected growth of ~7% (Parados Marketing Report, 2004).

However, due to the extreme difficulties in achieving effective separation of the multi-layered packaging into its constituent solid polymer components, there are no current technologies or operational processing plants for solid separation & recovery of the polymer fractions. As a consequence, multi-layered, flexible plastic waste is currently collected as a single waste stream & disposed of through landfill (at costs of €130/t), or incinerated (~€80/t); generating global economic losses of €3.2-5.2 billion. Disposal of such large volumes of plastic also generates great environmental concern, with an urgent need to develop effective separation technology. Consequently, demand for high quality recycled PET flake material is high & growing as processors strive to meet sustainability targets, whilst reducing the cost of products by using a mixture of virgin PET (€1300/t) & recycled PET (~€490/t) up to a ratio of 50/50 (rPET quality report WRAP 2013). At a value of €400-500/t for recycled polymers, the global market value for a process capable of recycling multi-layered packaging waste would be €12-16 bn p.a.

Our aim is to further develop our ultrasonic-assisted, chemo-mechanical recycling method to separate multilayered plastic packaging waste (semi-rigid trays, cups, tubs & film-based lids), and recover polyethylene (PE) & polyethylene terepthalate (PET) individually in their solid state. We aim to license the technology to recyclers who can recover and sell these end products in the EU recycling market & thereby create a new business opportunity of ~€4.8bn. Successful development of this technology will create the business opportunity to recycle this material, generating new revenues while reducing waste, landfill, energy & saving ~14.4m tonnes of CO2 emissions p.a. Our novel process will not only ensure the sustainable supply of these plastics as raw materials via recycling but will also provide participating SMEs with the opportunity to derive an ongoing income.

Our proposed production plant size is 15kt p.a, able to convert ~95% of throughput into recycled polymer to meet increasing UK demand. Our project could substantially increase supply of this material into the recycling markets which would otherwise be lost. If successful, our strategy is to operate a small pilot demonstrator plant & to license the technology across the UK & EU.

It is envisaged that the potential benefits of the LAMPACK technology would be:
• If 48% PET (value~ €490/t) is recovered then annual value per plant = (15,000t x 48% x €490/t) = €3.5m
• If 47% PE (value~ €740/t) is recovered then annual value per plant = (15,000t x 47% x €740/t) = €5.2m
• Energy savings of €1.6m p.a per plant (15,000tpa)
• CO2 reduction of ~ 22,500tpa per plant (15,000t virgin material x1.5t CO2 saved/t)

All organisations responsible for protecting the environment will be keen to see wide adoption of this technology due to the environmental benefits through energy savings, carbon reductions & landfill diversion. The technology could also reduce the volume of virgin polymers used in packaging by producing recycled plastic for reuse in the packaging industries. Additionally, the manufacturers of the plastic waste would benefit from a reduction in their waste disposal costs by having the material processed through our system rather than via landfill or incineration (Directive 1994/62/EC).

The ultimate goal of the Phase 2 project is to achieve market readiness o

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The work performed forms a techno-economic feasibility study - in line with the project deliverable.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

There are two current practices to recycle loose, mixed plastic waste that consist of different polymers. First is mechanical separation which includes shredding material, washing, density classification, grinding, air classification, washing & drying followed by passing through an extruder for compounding (Drelich et al 1999, Lee et al 2006 & Lynch et al 1989) However, even after two density-type separations, the material is still very impure & the mechanical properties are relatively low. Furthermore, this approach will not separate laminated, multi-layer polymer packaging waste.

The second type of process is a selective dissolution process which can separate laminated polymers. There are two basic approaches: a) one solvent is used to dissolve all of the polymers in the mixture or b) one solvent is used to dissolve only one polymer in the mixture. The first approach uses different temperatures to selectively precipitate out each polymer. The main drawback to this process is finding a solvent that will dissolve all of the polymers present in the mixture. The more common method used, process b), is to find a solvent that will either only dissolve the desired polymer or it will dissolve all of the other polymers except the desired one (Poulakis et al 2001, Lynch et al 1989). The main disadvantages of this process are that it may only separate certain polymers from the mixture. Both approaches utilize solvents that are hazardous to humans. Both approaches are complex, expensive & require additional downline processing. While a very small number of solvent recovery plants exist, they are not widespread & rely on large economy of scale to be even marginally economic. Our process is expected to be much more economic even at a relatively small plant scale ~ 15,000tpa.

Our Technology – involves the separation of laminated film e.g. PET & PE by using acetone as a penetrant under the influence of ultrasonics, which helps acetone to penetrate the inter-laminar crack between the layers, resulting in weakening (de-poling) & ultimately breaking the ‘polar’ Van Der Waals forces between the polymer layers. The concept uses a combination of proven technology & novel application of demonstrable technology & methods which have both economic & environmental benefits, offering potential for wider EU exploitation through a licensing agreement.

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