PLAST2bCLEANED has already achieved the milestone of its two years of life and, to celebrate that it still has two more years ahead, partners presented the main goals of the period.
252 samples were analysed from three Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment fractions using the RAMAN spectroscopy equipment. Studies on the influence of additives as well as colour/additives in the fluorescence effect were performed.
Dissolution experiments of reference samples to test separation of components were carried out, and its dissolution conditions were validated on sorted samples.
Density separation tests along multiple approaches were performed for the antimony trioxide removal, and several tests were held as well for brominated flame retardants and High Impact Polystyrene and Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene.
In terms of process design, good additive removal rates have been achieved with reference samples.
Progress was also made in plant concept and design as well as on pilot unit dissolution.
Activity on the performance testing of process and continued as well as on the environmental and economic assessment and dissemination tasks.
On June 15-16, ACHEMA 2021 had the opportunity to know more about the PLAST2bCLEANED progress scope and milestones achieved so far.
On behalf of the consortium, Sebastian Reinhardt, Research Scientist at Fraunhofer ICT, presented the project process steps, dissolution of polymers, antimony, and polymer recovery, as well as the hot crossflow filtration.
ACHEMA is the World Forum for the Process Industries where manufacturers and service providers from over 50 countries present their products for chemical, pharmaceutical and biotech research and manufacturing, as well as energy and environmental services.
In PLAST2bCLEANED, Raman spectroscopy is applied for the pre-processing step of the recycling process, in order to improve the current sorting process of Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) plastics.
Raman spectroscopy is an analytical technique based on light scattering that uses a laser as a source of high intense monochromatic light. Different laser wavelengths ranging from ultraviolet (UV) to near-infrared (NIR) can be employed. The sample is irradiated with the laser beam and scattered radiation of different wavelengths is produced. The scattered light is detected in the spectrometer, which transforms the signal into a spectrum.
The Raman spectrum is a chemical fingerprint of a compound that gives information about its molecular structure. Consequently, Raman spectroscopy is a useful technique for chemical identification, being complementary to other spectroscopic techniques used for plastics sorting in recycling plants, such as NIR spectroscopy.
In order to maximise the Raman signal and to reduce the fluorescence effect, several parameters are evaluated for polymers identification: laser power, integration time, or the use of different laser wavelengths in the NIR range.
PLAST2bCLEANED aims to develop a mechanical sorting process based on Raman spectroscopy, that will lead to identifying several polymers in any colour which contain different additives like brominated flame retardants (BFR) or pigments, in order to separate High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS) and Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) fractions from WEEE streams. These sorted polymers will be further purified for their reuse in other applications.
Interview with Judith Kessens, Senior Project Manager Circular Economy and Esther Zondervan-van den Beuken, Program Manager Circular Plastics at TNO and coordinators of the PLAST2BCLEANED project
What is TNO’s experience in circular plastics?
E: TNO is conducting independent research into circular plastics. This research varies from innovations on plastic product design to sustainable technologies for recycling plastics.
What is the company’s purpose behind circular plastics and what methodology you follow?
J: Plastic waste from electrical and electronic equipment, such as computers, refrigerators, and telephones, contains many additives that are difficult to recycle. At this moment, these plastics are often processed in undesirable ways outside the European Union. This leads to environmental pollution, unnecessary CO2 emissions and a loss of valuable circular raw materials.
E: TNO coordinates the PLAST2bCLEANED project. Together with our partners, we are developing various circular recycling techniques for plastics. Additives such as bromine and antimony trioxide are separated from the plastic polymer with superheated solvent.
J: In this way, we achieve a significant reduction in CO2 emissions. We prevent environmental pollution. Moreover, polymers from plastic waste will soon be available as a circular raw material.
E: The developed technology can easily be translated into waste streams from other sectors, such as the automotive industry, construction & infrastructure, and the packaging industry.
What are the PLAST2bCLEANED results until now?
J: In the first stage of the project, the equipment for the novel plastic sorting process was set-up and calibrated; Based on over 300 experiments, a flow diagram was drawn for novel recycling process. In the laboratory setting, the feasibility of the technology has been proven.
E: Likewise, first assessments indicate that the new recycling techniques are economic viable and more sustainable compared to the current treatments.
What will be the next steps for the project?
J: The project will soon make the transition from the TNO laboratory in Delft to a pilot plant. Samples weighing fifty kilograms are processed in this pilot plant.
E: This allows the composition and properties of the recycled polymer to be evaluated. We also investigate economic viability.
Interview with Christoph Zang, Managing Partner at Juchheim
How is Juchheim going to contribute to PLAST2bCLEANED success?
Juchheim designs and builds a semiflow pilot-unit for dissolution and subsequent separation of undissolved residues. This is made possible by transferring the results from the lab-experiments of our research partners to pilot-scale equipment.
What are the main challenges ahead?
At Jucheim we face mainly two big challenges. On the one hand, processing superheated solvents at elevated pressures demands a thorough selection of concepts and equipment and, on the other, apparatus design for a mechanical solid-liquid separation with a wide size and shape spectrum. All this is clearly challenging , but we are excited about that!
Lein presented PLAST2bCLEANED, together with Mark Leifer, as part of the paper entitled ‘Who is afraid of brominated flame retardants’.
PLAST2bCLEANED will close three loops using dissolution under superheated conditions by separation of polymer, bromine and antimony trioxide.
Due to the cooperation with the PolyStyreneLoop demoplant, the styrenics value chain is already mapped and will be linked to the PLAST2bCLEANED project.
PolyStyreneLoop demoplant is set up to demonstrate the feasibility of a large-scale demo plant as a closed-loop solution for the recycling of polystyrene insulation foam waste and the recovery of bromine.
The project is on the right track! Regarding the pre-sorting process: our RAMAN spectroscopy equipment is set-up and calibrated and a spectral library is in place.
Over 18 months, the consortium members TNO and Fraunhofer ICT performed over 300 experiments on the different steps of the process.
Model and reference Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment materials supplied by the project partners were used to test the efficiency of antimony trioxide and brominated flame retardants removal from the polymer as well as recovery of these two additives.
The analysis showed that the removal of additives is well underway to reach specifications. A Process Flow Diagram (PFD) was drawn based on the best results of the individual steps. This PFD will be the basis of the design of the technology readiness level (TRL) 5 set-up at Fraunhofer ICT.
Likewise, an impact assessment showed a better environmental performance and reduced costs can be achieved by using a blend with at least 50% of Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and High Impact Polystyrene (HIPS) compared to using 100% virgin material.
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