InnoNet News Nr. 18, June 2006 edition, page 2 

Success through Cost Control
Environmentally-friendly recycling process enables recovery of Styropor®

Expanded polystyrene (EPS), better known as Styropor®, is a preferred plastic for thermal insulation and for packaging due to its good insulating properties. In Germany alone, approximately 220,000 tonnes of EPS are processed on an annual base. The majority (75%) is used in the construction industry for thermal insulation.

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EPS-recycling unit for the CreaSolv® Process in the pilot plant station of the Fraunhofer IVV

But the handling of EPS waste remains an issue. In order to re-use it as re-expandable polystyrene (PS), the material has to be cleaned effectively and separated from additives, e.g. brominated flame retardants, which are required for the fire protection of thermal insulation in buildings. 
Previous recycling processes offered only poor cleaning effectiveness, thus reducing the achievable value (price) of the plastic. Furthermore this material creates enormous transport cost due to its high “specific volume”. A Jumbo-truck with a load volume of 110 m3 can only transport 600-700 kg Styropor®.

As part of the project Recycling of EPS-waste to re-expandable Polystyrene (EPS-Loop), a recycling process was developed within the Inno-Net program that can produce re-expandable polystyrene from impure EPS-waste. In addition a considerable volume reduction was achieved by dissolving EPS-waste in a special liquid. Because the liquid for dissolving EPS is a special formulation that is considered as environmentally friendly, EPS-waste can be collected with a normal tank truck for transportation to a recycling plant. This permits significant reductions in the transport cost.

Before the start of the project, both the Fraunhofer-Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging (project coordinator) and CreaCycle GmbH had established the basis for the effective recycling of EPS-waste by using the CreaSolv®Process. 
During the first stage of the recycling process, undissolved impurities such as metals, wood, other plastics, organic waste or dust can be separated by sieving, sedimentation or centrifugation. Afterwards the pure polystyrene is isolated in particle form by adding a special precipitation agent.

Dr. Andreas Mäurer from Fraunhofer IVV believes the innovation is defined by the quality of the recycled polystyrene: “By using this process, we have succeeded for the first time in producing clean recycled granulate that can be re-expanded to Styropor®. Colour comparisons between the resulting granulate and recycled polystyrene from existing processes shows a significant improvement in quality.”

Beyond the commitment of the participating partners, a strong financial structure in respect to a later utilization of the project results has contributed considerably to the success of the project. The InnoNet-Jury especially complemented the idea sketch with the utilization plan that already included an efficient cost calculation that accompanied the project during its entire duration. Presented as an Excel sheet, the total accumulated cost for the set-up of an EPS-Recycling Plant was calculated from the start of operations onwards: personnel- and  energy costs, operating resources, investment for the required building work and of course the cost for the plant itself. The individual positions were described accurately, for example personnel costs were precisely broken down to reflect the required staff members, their wages as well as the corresponding payroll fringe costs.In different scenarios, which were continuously adapted and/or extended during the project, the cost calculation took into consideration the capabilities of the plant as well as upgrades from the project partners.

From today’s perspective the returns even from a small plant with an annual capacity of 4000 tonnes are considered as so attractive at full utilization that it will return the investment cost of a new plant after only two years.Beyond its success in research, the EPS-Loop project has shown that detailed financial planning pays off. Despite the fact that certain developments in a project cannot be predicted, a good statement of costs with different variables and orders of magnitude offers confidence in planning and a reliable organisational scope. This is also the case when some cost can only be initially estimated.

More information available from:
Fraunhofer-Institut für Verfahrenstechnikund Verpackung IVV
Dr. Andreas Mäurer
Kunststoff-Recycling
Giggenhauser Straße 35 
85354 Freising
Tel.: 08161 491-330 
Fax: 08161 491-777
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.ivv.fraunhofer.de

Styropor® is a registered trademark of BASF.
CreaSolv® is a registered trademark of CreaCycle GmbH.

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