Recycling - An essential measure for the circular economy

Recycling raw materials as an alternative

The issue of recycling raw materials and the recovery of unmixed initial monomers has garnered greater attention recently, with more and more companies launching research and development projects, such as Coca-Cola which exploits chemical recycling of PET packaging. Sabic, the chemical corporation, recently announced that, in conjunction with Plastic Energy, the British specialists in London, it would be establishing a plant in the Netherlands which would process commercial volumes of mixed plastic waste to produce oil which, in turn, would then be used as a raw material for new plastics. Starting material recovered in this manner conserves fossil resources and is a good example of a functioning circular economy. However, nascent projects of this kind need time to take root.

Circular concepts already exist in which newly filled, coloured or specific additive compounds are created from plastic waste and can be used by plastics processors to manufacture new substitutes for many products. Minimal or absolutely no adjustments need be made for the use of so-called recompounds, as manufacturers of injection moulding and extrusion plants continually emphasise.

The importance of these efforts is demonstrated in the latest investments made by major raw material manufacturers. For example, 2016 saw the takeover of mtm plastics GmbH in Niedergebra by Borealis.

The former has a plant capacity of 30,000 tonnes per annum and manufactures recycled polyolefins from mixed plastic waste. Together with the processing firm Suez, LyondellBasell took control of QCP B.V. in Geleen/Netherlands last year, a company whose state-of-the-art processing plant has a current capacity 35,000 tonnes per annum and manufactures PE and PP recompounds from post-consumer packaging. 2018 also saw the purchase by Albis of Wipag GmbH, the recycler and closed loop process specialist from Neuburg. Having specialised in the automotive sector for decades, Wipag has now even developed a process for recovering the robust material CFRP and enabling its reuse.

Recycling is not only a designated product category at K 2019, but is also discussed in the K Specials, as is the entire field of Circular Economy. The special show "Plastics shape the Future" aims to involve both politicians and socially relevant groups, while the "Science Campus" of K 2019 stands for the dialogue between science and business.