Tag Archives: plastic recyclate

Circular plastic building materials – a world of opportunities

An innovative builder from Emmeloord was interested to learn whether applying plastics could help them in building more sustainable homes. And they wanted to know what this would mean for their production process.

To make the possibilities viable for  Groothuisbouw and to develop prototypes,  Partners for Innovation have set up a chain project. In this project an architect, a producer of roof duct systems, an injection moulder, an extrusion company, a composite producer,  a producer of isolation material, a plastic collector and a plastic recycler.

Together these companies created several new and unexpected product ideas. The possibilities seemed to be endless.  Three of these ideas have been developed into prototypes: a dormer, a chimney and a cornice.  Partners for Innovation has also calculated the accompanying energy and environmental impact using our LCA-tool. The positive impact, compared to traditional products, turned out to be major. Moreover the composites alternatives have a longer lifespan, are easier to manufacture and require less maintenance.

The partners in this project will continue to work together to get this products to the market. The domers can already be admired in the Groothuisbouw showroom.

Want to learn more?

 

Recycled plastics in electronics: from individual pilots to industry collaboration

Ten companies in the electronics sectors, together with the two trade associations Digital Europe and CECED, gathered in September for a two days’ workshop.  Goal of this workshop was to formulate concrete projects to use more recycled plastics in electronic appliances. All parties agree that the market for recycled plastics will get a boost when electronics producers increase the use of these plastics in their products. Industry collaboration can help speed up this development. The workshop in Brussels boosted this cooperation. 

“We already have projects on recycled plastics. We started back in 2010 by introducing more and more recycled plastics” Eelco Smit, sustainability manager of Philips explains. “Now we want to take this to the next level. We are too small to make a big change ourselves: we can only make a change if we get critical mass.”The collaborative workshop, bringing together several electronics producers, electronic collectors, virgin producers and recyclers, gives companies the opportunity to learn from each other and work together to achieve industry wide collaboration. [1]

Different material properties

Why are recycled plastics not reused for new electronics yet? Often this is related to the material properties of the recycled material. These are not the same as the properties of virgin material. This means electronic producers need to test all recycled materials for all different product groups – a time consuming process. In addition, the designers working for brand owners do not always know how to design with recycled materials. And even if they do have this knowledge, high quality recycled materials are not always available in large quantities. The bigger electronics brands such as BSH (Bosch Siemens) and Philips prefer to work with large suppliers. Recyclers, on the other hand, face the challenge to produce a high quality and high value material at a competitive price. This involves large investments in machines needed to separate the different plastics from each other. The recyclers deal with a mixed materials supply stream, as many product types (e.g. washing machines together with tumble dryers, dishwashers, cookers, etc) are collected together.

What’s next?

During the workshop participants shared their knowledge, evaluated their supply chains and created new ideas how to make this more circular. Subsequently, they worked together on solutions for the current challenges. This resulted in five project proposals. A group of workshop participants agreed to work on an educational tool “Design for Recycling” in order for designers to get more in-depth knowledge on working with different recycled materials. Another group worked on a project proposal related to standardization of recycled plastics, whereas another group focused on improving the collection and recycling of filled PP(polypropylene) from washing machines. The participants will be invited again to follow up on the progress in the projects. One thing is clear: all parties are highly motivated to close the plastics loop. As Gisela Lehner from Borealis stated: “Plastics is too valuable to throw away, we want to be part of the second life of plastics.” To be continued…

More information? contact Marjolein van Gelder or Ingeborg Gort.

[1] Present at the workshop were CECED, Digital Europe, Ricoh, Technicolor, Philips, BSH Hausgeräte GmbH, Eco-systèmes, Recupel, Coolrec, MBA Polymers, Urban Mining Corp and  Borealis.

Eindhoven Airport & Vanderlande are closing the loop

The airport of Eindhoven and logistics automatisation company Vanderlande have taken an important step towards a circular economy. In the Closing-the-loop project parts of existing baggage handling systems are being reused at the airport instead of being disposed of. In a unique cooperation valuable transport systems now have a longer life span, it’s Vanderlande’s first step to see if a circular business model for transport handling systems is feasible and functioning.

Reuse

Due to our airport expansion the airport can no longer use our current baggage handling system. A challenge presented itself. By dismantling the equipment into pieces, without knowing where they end up would lead to an unnecessary diminution in value. If (parts of) the equipment are to be reused on a new location, the airport manages to keep its maximum value. So, part of the transport and sorting machines have been put up for sale. See this e-magazine.

Unique cooperation

The Airport of Eindhoven en Vanderlande worked together in this project with amongst others Forbo and SEW (supplier of Vanderlande), ACE Reuse Technology (a specialist in the field of remanufacturing) and locally based recycling company Heezen. For the assessment of the current status of the system and its parts (including the driving mechanism) it’s essential to involve all companies in the value chain and their expertise. In the end you need to be able to guarantee the quality for the new user. Ingeborg Gort of Partners for Innovation, acted as independent project manager to guide the companies in taking the next steps and communicating the results. She documented the steps and the business model.

Circular business model

The business model is work in progress and is depending on the infrastructure of Vanderlande, logistic processes, partners, new customers and last but not least, the costs and margins. However, two things can be noted:
1 The Netherlands will be 100% circular in 2050, since natural resources are becoming scarce.
2 Vanderlande’s systems are employed in 600 airports worldwide, of which 14 in the 20 biggest airports in the world.
If Vanderlande continues in this direction it will work out for the best, keeping in mind that natural resources will become the predominant factor of future business models.

Want to learn more?

See also the video with project learnings

Vanderlande: a supply chain project in transportation systems

In a unique project involving ten supply chain partners, global market leader in transportation systems Vanderlande developed two plastic products, that are beneficial for the environment:

  • the TUB, a container in which luggage is carried along a conveyor belt at airports
  • the TRAY, a crate in which products are stored in automated storage- and distribution centres

The TUB for luggage handling

The TUB is used for transportation of bags and suitcases at airports. The current TUB is made of LDPE that is moulded into shape through rotational moulding. The hollow mould is subsequently filled with PU foam. A scuff rib is attached along the edges.

Partners for Innovation has made a Life Cycle Assessment Quick-scan to measure the impact of the current TUBs. The conclusion is that the weight of the TUB contributes considerably to the energy use of the luggage systems (85% of the total impact). This is due to the continuous transportation of the TUB. Therefore it’s crucial that the TUB cannot be heavier if recyclate is applied. Preferably lighter, to realise a higher energy reduction.

SUEZ has recycled twenty TUBs to research the recyclability of the current TUB. It has succeeded in removing the PU foam from the LDPE edges, making it recyclable. Afterwards Promens used it to produce a new TUB. This went surprisingly well, albeit with a different colour than virgin. According to recycling companies this can be resolved by an improved cleanse of the shredder and compounding the recyclate with a strainer. Furthermore, the UHMPE scuff ribs need to be detachable.

The participants have developed several TUB drafts based on different production techniques. At the moment, Vanderlande is researching which of the preliminary designs is most suitable. Applying the recyclate seems to be possible, and by optimising the design a huge reduction of weight and energy can be achieved.

The TRAY  for automated distribution centres

The TRAY is used for the storage of goods in automated storage and distribution systems, also called ACP (Automated Case Picking). This system consists of a stretching structure and an integrated TRAY shuttle; the Vanderlande ADAPTO system. The shuttles transporter the TRAYS with goods to and from the storage and designated entrances and exits. For the current ACP concept no standard storage instruments were available, so Vanderlande decided to develop their own.

Partners for Innovation has made a Life Cycle Assessment Quick-scan to measure the impact of the current TRAYS. The conclusion is that the biggest impact (85%) on the environment comes from the production phase (mainly the material). This means that there benefits can be obtained from the use of recycled material and by optimising the design.

tray-distributiecentra

In designing the TRAY much time is spent on determining the specifications for Vanderlande. Most of the time, the TRAYs are piled up in racks containing products. Two things that needed to be taken into account is the heaviest possible load and the highest possible temperature. When a TRAY a product is needed the TRAY is being taken by a shuttle, and made ready for dispatch through various transportation lines and an operator or robot.

During a brainstorm session the specifications were divided in subfunctions. By asking “How can we?” questions we came up with solutions and ideas for each subfunction. In only thirty minutes we had over a hundred ideas. We put all these ideas in a morphological box and combined them to create drafts. Subsequently, we selected a draft which is elaborated on by Schoeller Alllibert.

Energy reduction

The potential benefit for the environment of the TUB mainly depends on the weight, its recyclability and the appliance of recycled material. The weight of the current TUB is m/l 16 kg, of which 11.4 LDPE and 4.6 kg PU foam. In the new TUB we use recycled HDPE, when available coming from old, recycled TUBs. A weight of 12 kg seems surely feasable, making 72 tonnes rHDPE applicable. This weight reduction of 25% brings about a energy reduction of m/l 12.5%. Regarding an average size airport with 6,000 TUBs this would translate into an energy reduction of 109,000 kWh/year (392 GJ/year).

The new TRAY is not comparable to the currently used crates. Many functionalities have been added, which make them suitable for automated handling in ACP systems. The potential benefit for the environment of the tray depends on the weight and percentage of recycled PP that can be applied to the amount of trays being produced. The weight of the new tray is 3.6 kg and this can be fully made of recycled PP. In an average size warehouse m/n 100,000 trays are used, this is 360 tonnes rPP. This will increase the demand for recycled PP. Compared to virgin, this will result in an energy reduction of 50%.

Cooperation in the chain

Working together has been inspiring but also difficult at times. In this project, several companies were involved who operate in the same market. This implied that participants needed to be open and frank but needed to respect each other’s intellectual property. Everyone presented their drafts but didn’t have to present their final versions to the group.

Contact:

Ingeborg Gort  i.gort@partnersforinnovation.com

Vanderlande transportsystems

Masterplan on the Plastics Cycle

The collection of plastics is not only a ‘hot topic’ but also a great success. Unfortunately, the recycling is not so straightforward. Worldwide, countries are collecting and recycling plastic waste to make their economy more and more circular. However, every major change brings about a number of challenges.

Masterplan

In the case of the Netherlands, recycled plastics are now only used for low quality products. The goal is to keep the quality of the recycled products as high as possible. Partners for Innovation has written, together with the NRK and partners the Masterplan Plastics Cycle, a vision on the system as a whole.

Economies of scale

A key point of the Masterplan is upscaling. Currently, this is not achieved due to a lack of knowledge in brand owner companies on the possibilities of recycled plastics. Also, the market has not fully integrated recycled plastics yet. In comparison to glass and paper recycling it is still very new. Furthermore, costs and benefits for the environment of recycled plastics in relation to virgin are currently not taken into account.

Chemical recycling

Further research and knowledge exchange is vital if we want to succeed in finding more appliances. The Wageningen University & Research has been involved in the creation of the Masterplan. Programma manager sustainable materials Christiaan Bolck: we have to carry out research into new methods of recycling, like chemical recycling. Bolck’s aim in view is a reuse of plastics of 95%. “We should be able to extract the other 5% from plants.”

Multi-layer plastics

A main glitch in the system is that part of the plastic packaging is very difficult to recycle due to the existence of different layers on top of each other (multi-layer). To tackle this problem we need to look at the design of the packaging. In the future it should not be possible to bring a product or package on the market and not know how it can be recycled and reused.

Contact

i.gort@partnersforinnovation.com

Download the  Masterplan Kunststof Kringloop   (Dutch)

YouTube films  on  Circular  Plastics

Read more on the  Guidelines   Ontwerpen met kunststof recyclaat (English)

Website of  the  NRK

 

Chain project breaks through with new way to use recycled plastic

The collection of domestic plastic waste is a big  success in the Netherlands. The challenge now is to realise the same scale in waste processing and recycling. This asks for  new high end uses of recycled plastic.

De Burg Groep and  chain partners have succeeded in bringing a vinegar bottle on the market made of 100% PET plastic (see photo). This was accomplished in an  NRK chain project, in which different partners in the chain worked together to find sustainable solutions. The participant were a material supplier, a producer, a collector, a sorter and a recycler.

Colourless and transparent

A key conclusion is that recycled PET plastic retains most of its value if it’s colourless and transparent. This option is the most workable and therefore could potentially attract the most interested companies. Japanese legislation only allows colourless and transparent bottles on their  market. By making this vinegar bottle De Burg Groep manages an optimal value preservation. After first use the bottles can  be reused for food approved rPET bottles.

PET-trays

In addition, the project group researched an even more ambitious option, whether it would be possible to make a vinegar bottle for non-food application made of recycled PET-trays. PET-trays are a waste stream that is sorted by synthetics sorters since the beginning of 2016. However, a suitable application for this stream hasn’t yet been found.

Next step

Within the limited time of the project parties haven’t been able to process the PET tray material into bottles. The main obstacle is the dirt layer and the lack of dedicated PET trays processing companies. The project partners will continue in a work group to see what the next steps should be. Furthermore, the KIDV will research the potential of recycled PET-trays. They will also look at the design (front of the chain) of PET-trays. A better design would  make them more suitable for recycling.

The project’s key  conclusion: if you want to introduce  a new package, make sure you know how it can be recycled (in practice!).

Contact:

Ingeborg Gort (Partners for Innovation) i.gort@partnersforinnovation.com