Tag Archives: recycled plastic

Circular plastic building materials

Groothuisbouw is an innovative builder using prefabrication to produce custom build houses. The company is a frontrunner in the building industry.

Groothuisbouw located in Emmeloord is a company that constructs houses using an industrialised system and customer specifications. Using a collection of property types, customers can chooses their preferred version even down to the level of rooftiles and gables. These houses are constructed (prefab) at their own production location and can be build within 3 days at the prepared site.

Groothuisbouw uses traditional materials, like wood and stone. They would like to know whether plastics would be a suitable alternative.  And what this would mean both for the sustainability impact of the houses and their own production process. The advantages of plastics compared to traditional building materials are the low weight, the isolating properties, the slight maintenance, the possibilities for integration and the possibility to use recycled plastics.

To make the possibilities viable for  Groothuisbouw and to develop prototypes,  we 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. The accompanying energy and environmental impact, compared to traditional products, has been calculated using an LCA. The positive impact turned out to be major.

The thee products 

  • Composite dormer, using polyester resin with glass fiber and a gelcoating with zinc powder. Less maintenance, installation costs and materials;

Smit Composite has developed a composite dormer with a higher fluid and crack density than a traditional wooden dormer.  The lifetime is prolonged and the installation is easier. The gelcoating gives the dormer a luxurious appearance. Groothuisbouw intends to market the new dormer as an exclusive product and aims to have six models in their showroom soon.  Our preliminary LCA shows that this composite dormer lowers the CO2 impact with 21 % during production and use compared to the traditional wooden alternative.

  • Composite chimney, replacing bricks and a steel frame with a lightweight composite structure and sawn stone strips creating a sightly finish. The stone cover plate was also replaced with a composite look-a-like. 

Smit Composite has designed and developed a new chimney, which is 71% lighter than a traditional chimney.  Smit used a composite structure,  outlined with sawn stone strips that can replace the steel frame and bricks.The stone cover plate was also replaced with a composite alternative. No LCA has been conducted for this chimney.

  • Integrated cornice, using one piece of recycled pvc to create the fascias and trim. Meaning less production and installation costs.

For the third project  Profextru has researched a cornice of recycled PVC. This PVC was orginally used for PVC window frames.  By using  injection moulding it was possible to create a cornice in one part and to integrate different functions. This saves maintenance and installation costs. Als the weight is much lower than that of a wooden cornice.  Groothuisbouw researches the possible production volume, with this information Profextru can decide whether this cornice will be viable for their production facilities. The provisional LCA shows that a plastic cornice lowers the CO2 emission with 35% when compared to the wood alternative.

Advantages of a chain project

A product development approach involving the valuechain means that knowledge and ideas from different angles are shared. Using a (circular) chain approach, forces you to have an intergral look at solutions and prevents incomplete solutions that turn out to be problematic at the end of the first operational phase of a project. This practical approach means producers have greater understanding of the impact of their design and suppliers gain insight in the possiblities.

Groothuisbouw can now bring the new solutions to market.  Valuale contacts have been made and knowledge was shared, even with parties that did not take part in the sessions. Moreover this project has led to a publication:  the Dutch magazine Netwerk van de Nederlandse kunststofindustrie published two pages on this project (June 2017).

Advantages for the construction industry

This project is not just about new knowledge for Groothuisbouw and its partners; it is an example for creating value in the (often) traditional building industry.  For example by working together with an adjoining sector, such as the plastics industry.  By breaking the invisible borders between sectors, new opportunities arise to work more efficient, precise and sustainable.

Like to learn more?

Contact: Ingeborg Gort

This chain project was done with support of RVO.nl  

* Participants in this project:

  • Groothuisbouw, builder
  • Ubbink, producer of plastic roof products
  • Profextru, developer of eco-friendly products made from recycled plastic
  • Omefa, plastic injection moulding
  • Smit Composite, producer plastic composite products
  • Isobouw, producer isolating building products
  • Van Gansewinkel, waste operator;
  • QCP, supplier plastic compounds from post-consumer waste;
  • Bureau SLA en Overtreders W, architects experienced in applying recycled plastics
  • NRK, federatie Nederlandse kunststof en rubberindustrie
  • Innovatielink, MKB steunpunt Topsector Chemie (initiator of the project)



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.

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.


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.


Ingeborg Gort  i.gort@partnersforinnovation.com

Vanderlande transportsystems

Guidelines Designing with Recycled Plastics

We are proud to present our new Guidelines for Designing with Recycled Plastics.

In this Guidelines Designing with Recycled Plastics, the most important tips and tricks are shared, for the application of recycled plastic in (high-end) injection moulding products. The Guidelines are the result of a chain project for the Dutch Plastics Industry Association initiated by Philips and Partners for Innovation. The idea for this project started in the working group ‘Recyclate and Product Design’ of the Dutch Plastic Value Chain Agreement.

Six showcases for inspiration 
In the Caseguide Designing with Recycled Plastics, six leading companies from Dutch Industry share their experiences with the application of recycled plastics. Every case is linked to a video (in English). “By sharing this informatie with designers, Research &Development staff, suppliers and plastic converters, we hope to inspire the rest of the market to use more recycled plastics in high-end products“, says Ingeborg Gort-Duurkoop, advisor Sustainable Innovations at Partners for Innovation.

The Guidelines Design is an MJA3 project supported by Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO Nederland) and The Dutch Federation of Rubber and Plastics Industry (NRK), in cooperation with Philips and developed by Partners for Innovation.

Download: Guidelines for Designing with Recycled Plastics

Caseguide Designing with Recycled Plastics

Column – A business approach: curse or blessing?

In 1996 the Dutch government published its first policy paper on Environment and Economy. This memorandum laid the foundation for the detachement between economic growth and environmental impact.

The paper created quite a stir and its principles still influence today’s environmental field. Environment and economy are since then inextricably linked. Moreover, environmental awareness appears to have turned into a means to earn money.

Almost twenty years and many ‘profitable business models with a positive environmental impact’ later, Emiel Hanekamp questions whether the path we have chosen is still the right one? Is linking environment and economy in the current fragile economy still a good idea? Or is it time to dust off the intrinsic values of environment and sustainability? 

Column: Chain Agreement Recyled Plastic

Netherlands is one of the leaders in Europe in the recycling of plastics. In package recycling the Netherlands is even nr. 1. Nevertheless, there are still significant challenges to increase the application of recycled plastics. Approximately 60% of our post-consumer plastic is still burned (with energy recovery). A small – but still too large – part, ends up as litter in the environment.

The Chain Agreement Recycled Plastic – with the Dutch government in the role of chain manager – can be the game changer. The frontrunners are already well under way. If they lead by example, this initiative may become very successful, argues Emiel Hanekamp in Environmental Magazine.