CreaSolv® Demonstration plant for Plastic Packaging Waste – Lober (2018)

In order to protect sensitive and high-value products from the food and consumer2018.11 WRAP 02 pack.waste goods segment, today plastic packaging systems have to meet high requirements and they increasingly consist of complex packaging composite constructions e.g. multi-layer plastic films. These often used multi-layer laminates made of polyethylene/polyamide (PE/PA) and polypropylene/polyethylene terephthalate (PP/PET) are  “not recyclable” according to the present state of the art, because existing processing facilities can only treat packaging waste made from one single polymer. The CreaSolv® Process offers a solution to the issue that multi-layer laminates from household waste can only be incinerated and therefore the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) supports the Circular Packaging1) project with 3.12 Million Euro.

The CreaSolv® Process has been especially developed for composite separation of multilayer laminates. Because of the previous focus on incineration of plastic waste there neither existed a need for nor an interest in commercializing such a technology in Germany or in the EU, especially as this would require higher investment than the today practiced “regranulation” (shredding – extruding – granulating) of single polymers. It was Germany inventing the so-called “Heating Value Clause” (valid until June 2017), that created equal status to incineration and recycling, thus levering the EU Waste Hierarchy and creating false incentives; and additionally there was the export to China.  

At a very early stage Unilever was already attracted by the CreaSolv® Process, because the dealing with plastic waste as practiced in industrial countries is not practical and does not promise success in regions like Asia. The litter of plastic waste into the Oceans is in this region the largest and action is required, if the aim for a Circular Economy is meant seriously.
After several years development work with Fraunhofer IVV and CreaCycle the first CreaSolv® Pilot plant for Polythylene Sachet Recycling2) was put into operation in Indonesia in November 2018. This plant has Level TLR 5 (Technology Readiness Level3)) and there exist solid data on the quality of polyolefin recyclates produced from multi-layer packaging.

The project Circular Packaging runs from 01 November 2018 until 31 October 2021 and aims to demonstrate the economic efficiency and the potential of this technology in Germany in 3 project stages:

  1. Phase 1 – Construction of a completely connected pilot plant with a capacity of 5m3 plastic waste per day at the premises of Lober GmbH & Co. Abfallentsorgungs KG.
    The objective is the high-value material recovery of polyolefins (PE and PP) from plastic waste streams with a high proportion of multi-layer packaging laminates, which are actually incinerated with energy recovery.
    Test the plant in a continuous operation in order to prove the economic viability and raw-material efficiency of the process.
  2. Phase 2 – Up-scaling by factor 15 to an industrial demonstration plant.
  3. Phase 3 – Operation of the demonstration plant

Lober will take responsibility for the project coordination and they will operate the 1st CreaSolv® Plant in Germany. Fraunhofer IVV enabled the upgrade to technical scale and LÖMI GmbH (already project partner in the Poly-Ressource Project) delivers equipment for solvent-based processes and developed aggregates for the CreaSolv® Process.    

Critical Reflection
Effective 1st January 2018 China specified stricter impurity limits for plastic waste that has been interpreted as a ban on imports, because the imported plastic 2015 Plastic waste produced and mismanagedwaste was partially in poor condition and in some places it contributed to environmental pollution and to health problems. China was an important waste market for Germany and in 2016 exports added up to 563.000 tons of “waste, parings and scrap of plastic”, representing nearly 1/10 of the collected plastic waste. While in 2017 exports to China already declined significantly in expectation of the import ban, German exports of plastic waste to India, Malaysia and Indonesia increased. According to the German Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) 42.000 tons were exported to India in 2017 and 57.000 tons in the first 10 months of 2018. The volume to Indonesia increased from 600 tons in 2017 to 42.000 tons in 2018. “If a market closes, then industry of course searches for other markets” is quoted from the recycling industry4). With 60.000 tons UK even exports more to Indonesia than Germany.5).

A critical observer will immediately ask for the logical correlation between the new Plastic Strategy6) of the European Commission (with the urgent demand for a Circular Economy2017.12.28 Indonesia Marine pollution YT to industry and consumer goods manufacturers) and increasing German (and European) plastic waste exports to countries, which are considered as being primarily responsible for plastic littering into the Oceans and which are actually confronted with major efforts and investments, in order to build up own regional collection and recycling structures9).
When one realizes additionally that actual existing recycling technologies can only process less than 40% of our household plastic waste7) and that a part of our plastic packaging waste is already polluted with banned flame retardants8), then everyone should realize how bad the situation really is.

 

Literature

 

  1. Circular Packaging Flyer vom 30.10.2018 - Link
  2. CreaSolv® Pilotanlage in Indonesien - Recycling von Polyethylen-Beutelverpackungen – Unilever (2015) - Link
  3. Technology Readiness Level – Wikipedia – Link DE  Link EN 
  4. NTV vom 29.12.2018 – “Entsorger finden andere Märkte – Deutscher Müllexport nach China bricht ein“ – Link
  5. BBC „Recyclling: Where is the plastic waste mountain?“ published 01 January 2019 – Link
  6. European strategy for plastics – Link
  7. Journal of Industrial Ecology – Marie Kampmann Eriksel et al. “Quality Assessmant and Circularity Potential of Recovery systems for Household Plastic Waste” published 02 November 2018 – Link
  8. Chemosphere Volume 199, May 2018, Pages 612-616: “Hexabromocyclododecane in polystyrene packaging: A downside of recycling?” by Mohamed Abou-Elwafa Abdallah et al. – Link
  9. TRT World “Marine Pollution in Indonesia” published on YouTube on 28.12.2017 – Link
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