Reycling Magazin 20 / 201; pages 18 - 19 (translation)

Sevenfold Efficiency

PLASTIC WASTE – Using the CreaSolv® Process plastic shredder residues will be recycled to polymers of high quality. A project is targeting integrated industrial realization in 2012.

Using the CreaSolv® Process the Fraunhofer lnstitute for Process Engineering and Packaging in Freising, Germany has developed an innovative plastic recycling process that produces high-quality recycled polymer from plastic waste that previously could not be re-used. This includes plastics from old electrical equipment, old cars and the production of composite materials.


An intergrated project was started in September 2010; the goal being “the collection and re-processing of plastic waste with dangerous impurities, coming in the form of shredder residues from the re-processing of  electrical equipment and old cars, in Europe, and then to use these for the production of recycled plastics, which comply with current regulations”. For this purpose a large pilot plant will be built for the CreaSolv® Process,that is especially suitable for the re-processing of contaminated plastics. To allow these polymers to be re-used economically, two work processes need to be combined into one continuous process and the property profile of the recycled polymers needs to be optimized. This project could be a major step forward in the re-use of recycled plastics, also in relation to the economic trends, e.g. increasing oil prices. 

Re-use of solvents 

The trademark- and patent-protected CreaSolv® Process works according to the following process principle: The target polymer is dissolved from the mixture of plastic waste with a selective safe solvent formulation, and the resulting polymer solution will be cleaned mechanically and by chemical extraction. After drying of the cleaned product and recycling the solvents, one receives a recycled polymer of high quality. The recycled solvents will be re-used in the process. The clean polymer can now be compounded as required and this completes the process. 

This development was made in cooperation with the CreaCycle GmbH in Grevenbroich, Germany, specialized in the development non-classified solvent formulations.

2010.10_process_scheme.jpgThe process principle is shown in the graphic enclosed. The four main steps are:. 
-    Dissolving the target plastic with a selective solvent formulation (other components of the waste fraction will not dissolve),
-    Separation of impurities and hazardous components from the plastic solution,
-    Precipitation of the target plastic from the cleaned solution and 
-    Drying of the precipitated target plastic. 

The CreaSolv® Process is technically fully developed and different business models, prepared by external consultants, prove its economical attractiveness. The process cost, including site and investment depends on the plant size and target polymer, vary between 300 Euros and 800 Euros per tonne of recycled plastic. This makes the process suitable for difficult high volume waste streams, e.g. plastics from end-of-life cars (shredder-light-fraction) or the re-processing of old electrical and electronic equipment. Large plants with capacities of more than 3.000 tonnes per annum can easily operate at full capacity. This is why the CreaSolv® Process is now ready for commercialization in different projects.

A Spin-off is to be Founded

At present employees of ”Polycycle”, a company which will be founded as a spin-off of the Fraunhofer Organization, plan the first industrial plant for polymer specific recycling. Polycycle is supported by Fraunhofer Venture, a department of the Fraunhofer Organization that actively manages the founding of new companies from the institutes. „We see a big future and market potential in the CreaSolv® Process", states Matthias Keckl, the Fraunhofer Venture manager  responsible for such investments, "we are therefore convinced of the success of the Spin-off of Polycycle." 
The process is equally attractive for small production waste volumes of high value polymer composites, because this process achieves higher qualities and selling prices. 
The goal of the combined project, that started under the BMBF-Program "KMU - innovativ", is the production of engineering polymer products from shredder-light-fractions, which are created when re-processing old electrical equipment and end-of-life cars. This approach contradicts the common practice of disposal by incineration, or export, with a forward-looking "Waste to value" concept: Waste turns into a resource!

The technological concept is based on the combination of a mechanical post-shredder-treatment with a selective extraction of engineering polymers and an elimination of impurities with the CreaSolv® Process, followed by a technical polymer conditioning with optimized drying.
The solvents cycle as well as the drying of the product, with integrated compounding, should be a continuous processes. This innovative process-chain aims at the production of high value die-casting parts for the application in electrical equipment and new cars.

Lab scale process at IVV

The single processes will initially be optimized in a small scale before combining them and adopted to industrial equipment to confirm the economics. The CreaSolv® pilot plant – as the core – will be completely installed. This pilot plant will be used for comprehensive sample production and will represent a technically relevant scale for the first time. A reliable calculation of the economics for the complete process will be made on the basis of the results of the project, in order to plan an industrial scale-up after the completion of the project that will run until August 2012. 

Four-step process 

The project partners’ ambitious goal, of producing injection moulded plastic parts of high quality from shredder waste fractions, will be approached by the four step process chain – post-shredder treatment; CreaSolv® plant; upgrading of the recycled polymer; and finally injection moulding. Using the proposed continuous CreaSolv® pilot plant, a process will be realized that offers a seven-fold improvement in energy efficiency versus a virgin production (synthesis from the limited source crude oil). This relates to the fact that the calculated energy requirement for the innovative recycling process is 15% lower compared to the production of virgin plastics.

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