Circular Plastics Initiative Projects

InReP: An Integrated Approach towards Recycling of Plastics

Plastics significantly contribute to a sustainable society through its functionalities. Plastic packagings are light-weight, transparent, strong and offer a barrier against contamination. However, the downsides of our current plastic usage (leakage of plastics, greenhouse gas emissions, climate change and habitat destruction) ask for change. A circular plastic value chain is the solution, but to achieve this the quality of sorted products as input to recycling processes needs to improve.

In InReP we work together to make plastics circular! For all stakeholders to co-operate we need a common shared understanding of what the plastic challenge entails. We need to understand what our role is in this challenge and what can and cannot be achieved with conventional and new technologies. But these technologies are limited and often collide with invested interests. Moreover, in most cases recycled plastics do not meet all the requirements of the industry. This leads to the conclusion that we need new, preferably cheap and environmentally friendly, sorting and recycling technologies.

Objective

In 2030 the availability of high quality and fit-for-purpose recycled plastics will have significantly increased by implementation of InReP’s main result: the development of technologies in sorting, mechanical recycling and chemical recycling that make high quality recycled plastics available for the two dominating polymer types: polyolefins (PE/PP) and PET.

Results

  • Systemic and technological solutions for sorting & washing of plastic waste
  • Mechanical and chemical recycling
  • Upcycling of polyolefins (PE & PP) and polyesters (PET)

The obtained knowledge on the production of high-quality recycled plastics can easily be transferred to the recycling of other plastic waste streams. 

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Incentive: Towards Improved Circularity of Polyolefin-based Packaging

Plastics are present in many aspects of our daily lives, finding use in diverse products. Nonetheless one cannot disregard the negative impacts plastic litter has on our environment. But plastics are far too valuable to be treated as waste. Once they have served their purpose, used plastic should be part of a circular value chain, upcycling them or as feedstock in the chemical industry.

Of the plastics currently produced in the Netherlands and used for packaging, only 35% are mechanically recycled, whereas 65% are incinerated with an associated CO2-emission of 18 million tons. Both chemical recycling and mechanical recycling can have GHG emission advantages over incineration.

In order to achieve optimum utilization of waste plastic, both mechanical and chemical recycling needs to be applied. However, further technological development is required to make this economically feasible more broadly.

Objective

Despite the development and implementation of new and old technologies large scale implementation is still challenging. In this project, we analyze the technological hurdles for and provide background on the technical readiness of these technologies. Our focus is on emerging plastic sorting technologies and the chemical recycling of mixed polyolefin based) plastic waste by pyrolysis and gasification in the context of a circular value chain. Thus we create better understanding of those technologies and generate insights that help close the complex loop for polyolefin-based plastic recycling.

Approach

  • Sorting tests: waste stream composition of five different regions in Europe and most suitable recycling technologies
  • Evaluation of new analyzing techniques such as Raman spectroscopy, hyperspectral imaging and data analysis
  • Design for recycling in relation to emerging sorting techniques
  • Analysis of chemical recycling: focus on quality
  • Using our sorted and analyzed streams, we analyze chemical recycling (in particular pyrolysis and gasification) in more detail and as a part of a circular value chain

Results

  • Insights about the role of new and improved sorting techniques of plastic waste streams
  • Insights into criteria determining plastic waste stream suitability as feed for gasification or pyrolysis processes

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