09 Jun Advances in the LIFE Plasmix project, intended to improve polypropylene and polystyrene recyclability
Substantial progress is being made within the LIFE PLASMIX project, funded by the European Union’s LIFE Programme. It is focused on the development of new recycling processes for plastic materials from post-consumer urban solid waste. One of the main aims of the project is the reduction of plastic wastes which currently end up incinerated or buried in landfills. Thus, materials such as polypropylene or polystyrene from the plastic mix stream, which have very low recycling levels nowadays, could be reused in the automotive and food packaging sectors. The consortium of the project is made up by FCC Medio Ambiente as coordinating beneficiary, and by ANAIP, Andaltec, Lindner Washtech (Germany), Lindner Washtech Engineering (Austria), Pellenc Selective Technologies (France), Stadler Selecciona, Stadler Anlagenbau (Germany) and the University of Granada as associated beneficiaries.
The different organisations involved are executing the necessary actions to install a new sorting and mechanical recycling line for post-consumer plastic waste. The separation and classification of the plastic mix bales will be performed automatically by means of mechanical and optical separators, capable of singling the different types of polymers out. Afterwards, the selected materials will be shredded and transferred to a washing and extrusion line in order to obtain recycled pellets that will be used as raw material for the manufacture of prototypes. The mechanical and optical equipments have already been installed in the Ecocentral treatment plant in Alhendín (Granada, south-east Spain). In addition, the works for the installation of the washing and extrusion lines are currently in progress in a land adjacent to the Ecocentral. Therefore, this new recycling line for plastic waste is expected to be fully operational after the summer.
The last monitoring meeting of the project has pointed out all the progress achieved so far. Andaltec has cooperated with the University of Granada in the design of the small-scale recycling process of the plastic wastes. This served as a preliminary step to the industrial-scale phase of the process. In this context, the University of Granada has conducted the separation, classification and quantification of waste in the plastic mix stream based on types of plastics. On the other hand, Andaltec has performed the washing, extrusion and pelletising process of the materials classified by the University of Granada. These tests are intended to obtain recycled pellets. The Technological Centre for Plastics also performed the injection moulding of specimens, as well as their characterisation in the laboratory. ”We have successfully completed the full retrieval and reuse of the selected plastic wastes on a pilot-scale in order to gather useful information to develop the large-scale process. Besides, this preliminary small-scale phase proves that the recycled materials possess mechanical and thermal properties within the expected ranges”, as stated by José Antonio Rodríguez, Project Leader at Andaltec.
In the next stage of the project, the Technological Centre will receive the recycled pellets from the industrial facilities after sorting, washing and extrusion in order to tackle the phase of design, manufacture and validation of the different prototypes. “One of our tasks will be to prove that these recycled materials can meet the standards required by the automotive and food packaging sectors. We also are working on demonstrate that the retrieved materials can be employed to manufacture new products by means of conventional plastic-transformation technologies such as injection moulding and thermoforming. Hence, a plastic waste stream that currently presents severe environmental issues will be marketed, extending therefore their life cycle”, as Mr Rodríguez also adds.