Recycling of hazardous Plastic Waste (WEEE, ELV & CDW)

2019.06.01 NONTOX ProjectThe NONTOX project applies multiple recycling technologies to recycle hazardous plastic waste generated from Waste Electrical and Electronics Equipment (WEEE), End of Life Vehicles (ELV) and Construction and Demolition Waste (CDW). The overall objective is to increase recycling rates of plastics waste containing hazardous substances by developing two recycling technologies “CreaSolv® Process and Extruclean” to produce safe and high-quality secondary plastic materials and by optimizing the overall process economics by integration because increasing recycling rates are crucial for a circular economy as stated in the EU Plastic Strategy1).

2019.06.01 NONTOX PartnersThe NONTOX project is supported by € 5 Million of EU funding (H2020 - Grant ID 820895) and runs under the title “Removing hazardous substances to increase recycling rates of WEEE, ELV and CDW plastic” from 1 June 2019 until 30 November 20222). The project consortium involves 12 partners from 7 countries across Europe including Fraunhofer IVV.

2020.10.21 NONTOX VideoThe strategy of NONTOX starts with density sorting which is the basic process in recycling plants3), followed by the CreaSolv® Process (physical Solvent-based Purification), Extruclean (purification with CO2 in an extruder with focus on polyolefins and styrenics), thermochemical conversion and upgrading of the recycled polymer/plastic.
Final products are upgraded mono-material streams of ABS, HIPS, PC and pyrolysis oil.

2019.06.01 NONTOX StrategyFour main streams are the typical outcome of density separation:
   A - Polyolefins (PP, PE)
   B - Styrenics (ABS, PS & HIPS) with low Bromine content
   C - Styrenics with high Bromine content and Propylene carbonate (PC)
   D - Hard PVC and others
Streams A and B with typical Br levels below 2000 ppm are non-hazardous by the current applicable EU regulations4). Streams C and D with Br levels of much higher than 2000 ppm are considered hazardous.
Above is the finding of the study “Recycling Potential for Non-Valorized Plastic Fractions from Electrical and Electronic Waste” published by Fraunhofer IVV in 20215) that analyzed 17 different WEEE waste samples from 5 European Recycling facilities (in Netherlands, Sweden, Spain and Italy) as part of the NONTOX project. IVV could demonstrate that the CreaSolv® Process allows a high purification of halogenated plastics and developed a Recycling concept for WEEE plastics combining density separation with the CreaSolv® Process.

NONTOX focusses on following feedstocks:

  1. A heavy fraction (density above 1.1 kg/l – Stream C) with high levels of brominated flame-retardants (BFRs with BR level > 2000ppm) is directed to the CreaSolv® Process after removal of “clean” plastics with density sorting.
  2. Stream B with currently sold recovered ABS and PS polymer, containing acceptable but high levels of bromine (600-1000 ppm Br) is processed with Extruclean to lower the bromine content.
  3. Stream A (PP, PE) is directed to Extruclean or the CreaSolv® Process.
  4. The rejected material from optical sorting, from the CreaSolv® Process and from Extruclean, as well as dust, sludge and fines from current WEEE sorting processes, are sent to thermochemical conversion to remove remaining bromine compounds and to produce pyrolysis oil.

A unique feature of the CreaSolv® Technology is the separation and purification of PC from mixed contaminated streams. NONTOX explores the upgrade of PC towards PC/ABS blends applied in small domestic appliances, in order to demonstrate the circularity of the material now gained with the CreaSolv® Process.

 

NONTOX Results (only for the CreaSolv® Process)

2022.05.25 NONTOX DemonstratorsMay 2022 – At the NONTOX Dissemination Webinar “Circular Solutions: Applications of upgraded Plastics Recyclates” 6 Plastic Demonstrators were presented, showing how WEEE plastic waste recyclates from the CreaSolv® Process and Extruclean were upgraded and used in different Material concepts to demonstrate sustainable performance8).
The examples enabled by the CreaSolv® Technology are listed below.

All 6 Examples can be found here - Link

 

2022.05.25 NONTOX DEMO 1Demonstrator 1PC/ABS Shaving Machine Cover: The r-PC originates from bromine contaminated WEEE waste and was blended with virgin ABS, a compatibilizer or a chain extender. The blend showed appropriate thermomechanical properties – comparable to virgin PC/ABS. The target application is E&E Appliances (works for Automotive as well). View all data -> Link

 

2022.05.25 NONTOX DEMO 2Demonstrator 2HIPS Refrigerator Liner: The r-PS originates from WEEE waste and was compounded with 15% styrenic elastomer to match the desired elastic modulus of virgin HIPS, so that it can be combined with virgin HIPS via EVOH in a multilayer thermoformed 3-layer HIPS laminate E&E application. In this case post-consumer plastic waste from WEEE is used in a FOOD CONTACT application. View all data -> Link

2022.05.25 NONTOX DEMO 3Demonstrator 3 – ABS 3D-Printing Filaments: The r-ABS originates from WEEE waste and shows during 3D-printing a smooth flow and good layer adhesion without nozzle clogging or volatiles generation. Target application is Consumer Goods. View all data -> Link

 

Life Cycle Assessments

NONTOX project partner UNIVAN (Department of Environmental, Biological and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Technologies of the University of Campania, Italy) prepared 2 Life Cycle Assessments as part of the project. One looks at the waste of electrical and electonic equipment (WEEE) and the other one at end-of-life vehicles (ELV).

 

WEEE – “How to enhance the environmental sustainability of WEEE plastics management? in 20216).
2021 NONTOX LCA WEEE 1A LCA was developed with the support of a Material and Substance Flow Analysis to investigate environmental performances related to an innovative management scheme for WEEE plastics, proposed by the NONTOX project members, which includes novel treatments of sorting, dissolution/precipitation (CreaSolv® Process), extrusion (Modix), catalytic pyrolysis, and plastic upgrading.

4 management scenarios were analyzed and compared, by combining innovative options with those currently available in Europe (Ideal scenarios), and by considering the improper options still adopted for WEEE plastics exported to developing countries (Real scenarios). The comparative results for Ideal scenarios quantified the advantages of the implementation in Europe of the proposed innovative scheme, with a strong increase of annual amounts of WEEE plastics sent to recycling (from 390 kt/y up to 530 kt/y, i.e. from 53% to 72%) and a huge decrease of residues to be disposed of by combustion (from more than 360 kt/y to 60 kt/y).
2021 NONTOX LCA WEEE 3These results are mainly due to the CreaSolv® Process, which recovers large part of polymers contained in the heavy fraction (ABS, HIPS and PC), and to a lesser extent, to catalytic pyrolysis, which converts remaining non-target polymers in light sweet crude oil.

2021 NONTOX LCA WEEE 2The Life Cycle Impact Assessment results for Ideal scenarios showed that the new scheme could greatly enhance the environmental performances of WEEE plastics management. Improvements were estimated of
   •    580% for Global Warming
   •    60% for Carcinogens
   •    17% for Non-Renewable Energy impact

The CreaSolv® Process appears to be crucial, since its introduction allows improving
   •    Global Warming by 246%
   •    Non-Carcinogens by 69%
   •    Carcinogens by 35%,
…without considering the further positive contributions of the polymer upgrading and catalytic pyrolysis stages.

On the other hand, the advantages of the innovative management scheme substantially disappear when the LCA takes into account the dramatic negative contributions related to WEEE plastics exportation outside Europe. There is a huge worsening of global warming and carcinogens impacts, which increase from 9 to 12 times, respectively. This clearly indicates that a new WEEE plastics management scheme will be really sustainable only if waste exportation and the related adoption of improper treatment options will be strongly reduced. 

 

2022 NONTOX LCA ELV 1ELV – "Can plastics from end-of-life vehicles be managed in a sustainable way?" in 20227).
The study analyzed and quantified the environmental performances of novel treatments of sorting, dissolution/precipitation (CreaSolv® Process), extrusion (Extruclean and Modix), catalytic pyrolysis, and plastic upgrading, which could be combined to define a new ELV plastics recovery scheme.
The novel options and the resulting new scheme have been compared to the options and the overall scheme of current management of ELV plastics in Europe, by implementing a Life Cycle Assessment with the support of Material and Substance Flow Analyses. The study refers to the annual amount and average composition of ELV plastics collected in Europe and utilizes high-quality data for the innovative processes, acquired within the NONTOX project.

2022 NONTOX LCA ELV 2The comparison of 2 scenarios allows quantifying the advantages of the proposed recovery scheme. Its adoption in Europe may provide a great increase of annual amount of ELV plastics sent to recycling (from 26 kt/y up to 509 kt/y, i.e. from 3% to 50%), and a corresponding decrease in volumes of residues sent to combustion or landfilling (from 984 kt/y down to 232 kt/y).
These promising results are mainly related to the utilization of the CreaSolv® Process (dissolution/precipitation), whose introduction allows recovering large part of light polymers (PE and PP).

2022 NONTOX LCA ELV 3The Life Cycle Impact Assessment indicates that the proposed new recycling scheme could strongly improve the environmental performances of ELV plastics management, mainly in terms of
   •    Carcinogens by 138%
   •    Non-Carcinogens by 100%
   •    Global Warming by 42%
   •    Non-Renewable Energy by 114%

2022 NONTOX LCA ELV 4This means that plastics from end-of-life vehicles could be managed in a sustainable way, by using the analyzed novel options, appropriately combined in an efficient management scheme.
It is also noteworthy that a banning of the landfill option applied to the current management scenario could imply a fast and significant improvement in all the impact categories. This could be a first, even though not definitive, step to be adopted in Europe.

The sensitivity analysis indicates that the results could be affected by variations in the energy consumption of the CreaSolv® Process and by the yield of oils recovered by catalytic pyrolysis. There is also an important role of the actual substitutability factor of recycled plastics obtained from the CreaSolv® Process, i.e. their ability to match the required properties of virgin polymers.

 

NONTOX Policy Brief

2021.10.07 NONTOX Policy Brief 1October 2021 - With a common focus on recycling and eco-design, 5 projects funded by the European Commission “NONTOX, Circular Flooring, CREAToR, PLAST2bCLEANED and REACT” have joined forces to increase awareness of the benefits of implementing the principles of circularity and developed the NONTOX Policy Brief with 6 recommendations.
2021.10.07 NONTOX Policy Brief 2Through their research, this project group is driving eco-innovation to enable recycling efficiency and closing the loop on the RE-USE of plastic materials in Europe….and struggle (as many others) about the permanent confusion of physical and chemical processes, expressed in Recommendation number 2: Qualify Solvent-based Purification / Dissolution Recycling as “Physical Recycling” in the Taxonomy Climate Delegate Act and not as chemical recycling as it is actually incorrectly classified.

 Circular Flooring also works with the CreaSolv® Process. -> Link

 

NONTOX Dissemination Event

2022.11.10 NONTOX Dissemination EventNovember 2022 - During the dissemination meeting the NONTOX partners showcased the work performed along the entire duration of the project, highlighting achieved results and innovations. The floor was also given to other projects that are ending like CREATOR and PLAST2bCLEANED.

 

 

NONTOX project – Homepage – Link

  • NONTOX project Video – 21.10.2020 – Link
  • NONTOX Policy Brief - October 2021 - Link
  • NONTOX "Dissemination Workshop - Application of upgraded Plastics Recyclates" on 25 May 2022 - Link
  • NONTOX "Dissemination Meeting" on 10 November 2022 - Link

 

 

Literature

  1. European strategy for plastics – Link 
  2. Horizon 2020 ID 820895 – “Removing hazardous substances to increase recycling rates of WEEE, ELV and CDW plastics” – Link
  3. NONTOX “The role of plastic recyclates upgrade into safe products in the challenge of supporting circularity and the application of larger volumes of recyclates” - Link
  4. European Electronics Recyclers Association, «Responsible recycling of WEEE plastics containing Brominated Flame Retardants- BFR’s» 2018 – Link  
  5. L.Strobl, T. Diefenhardt, M. Schlummer, T. Leege, S. Wagner “Recycling Potential for Non-valorized Plastics Fractions from Electrical and Electronic Waste” Recycling 2021, 6, 33. – Link  
  6. Waste Management 135 (2021) 347-359 “How to enhance the environmental sustainability of WEEE plastics management: An LCA study” F. Ardolino, G.F. Cardamone, u. Arene – Link
  7. Sustainable Production and Consumption, Volume 29, January 2022, Pages 115-127 – “Can Plaszics from End-of-Life Vehicles be managed in a sustainable way?” G.F. Cardamone, F. Ardolino, U. Arena – Link
  8. NONTOX “Dissemination Workshop – Applications of upgraded plastics recyclates” on 25.05.2022 – Link 

 

 

 

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