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chemical recycling vs mechanical recycling

You can find out more about our use of cookies Economic valorisation may just be an attempt to make profit without any environmental gain, Founder & Editor of BioplasticsNews.com Any of these three main recycling types involves three basic steps. Plastics recycling is as much of a challenge as an opportunity for the circular economy. This granulate is then used to make new plastic products. Mechanical recycling typically uses technologies that retain the original physical form of used plastics; that is, the plastic material (resin) remains mostly the same during mechanical recycling. It mechanically crushes the plastic and remelts it into granulate. It’s not as aesthetically or visually attractive. Chemical recycling. Chemical recycling is the new El Dorado, the new promised land. Currently, companies are promoting chemical recycling more strongly, although it requires a lot of energy and does not save much CO2. It mechanically crushes the plastic and remelts it into granulate. In chemical recycling processes, plastic waste is purified and chemically separated into new, pure chemical building blocks. Chemical recycling complements mechanical. My first question related to the advantages of chemical versus mechanical recycling. According to the European Food Safety Authority, granulate from mechanical recycling cannot be used in food packaging. It won’t be easy to make food grade chemically recycled content. Durch den ausschließlichen Fokus auf hochmoderne Technologien für mechanisches Recycling geraten die Vorteile von Polyamiden für leistungsstarke und flexible Lebensmittelverpackungen etwas in den Hintergrund. In mechanical recycling, plastic waste (sorted by material type) is milled and washed, passes a flotation separation, and is dried. Mechanical recycling shreds plastic waste and doesn’t’ use toxic chemicals. This results in bright recyclates that can be colored. For instance; plastic may turn out not to be infinitely chemically recyclable. First, we reduce the amount of plastic waste, and secondly, we improve our resource efficiency, as using plastic waste as a feedstock reduces our dependence on the non-renewable resources such as oil when making new chemicals. Mechanical recycling, very simply, consists of melting down the old plastic and using it to make new products Mechanical recycling can only be done a few times before the polymers break down and the quality of the plastic degrades. Chemical recycling enables recycling of a wider range of waste plastics than traditional, mechanical recycling. Product design also plays a major role in mechanical recycling. So, unlike glass for instance, you cannot necessarily use mechanically recycled polymers to remake the same product. Hence, we restricted ourselves on areas covered by other projects. The granulate could contain substances that are hazardous to health and might get into the food. The distinction between mechanical recycling and feedstock (or chemical) recycling is that mechanical requires physical separation, whereas feedstock recycling converts mixed PE/PP/PS/PVC into basic hydrocarbon building blocks. When you register on this website, please ensure you view our terms and conditions. Chemical recycling technologies play a decisive role in closing the loop and supporting the transition towards a more sustainable and circular economy in Europe. In order to support the safe use of their recycled products, recyclers must collect information Many assumptions regarding chemical recycling may turn out to be wrong. Why not incinerate the plastic waste in the first place? Mechanical recycling preserves the molecular structure. Here are the three main types of recycling: mechanical, energy and chemical. If the initial mixture contains too many different materials or if it is too dirty—both of which are common with plastic waste—the quality of the product decreases and the whole process becomes economically unviable. landfills, or dumps, means that these materials are lost forever as a resource, despite plastics’ potential for reuse a… Carbios, a green chemistry company focused on plastics recycling, is targeting polyethylene terephthalate (PET)—a resin it believes offers huge market potential. Chemical recycling makes plastic infinitely recyclable. Mechanical recycling results in approximately 10% material loss and 10% quality loss Merrild et al., … Chemical processes are more tolerant of contamination, and they yield polymers that are identical to the originals, eliminating downcycling. Chemicals. The science journalist Brigitte Osterath questions why the development of chemical recycling is supported with millions whereas hardly any investment is being made in the more environmentally friendly mechanical recycling. Complementary: While large volumes of sorted single-stream plastics can and should be recycled mechanically, chemical recycling can process, for example, mixed plastic waste streams for which it may be impossible or very inefficient to sort them for a high-value mechanical recycling. Aluminium and PVC ar… Recycling is the act of taking waste and making it into a new material that has value, thereby preventing that waste from entering the landfill. Using chemical recycling to produce fuel from plastic waste is particularly problematic. between mechanical recycling and chemical recycling can best be done if detailed information on mechanical recycling is available. Washing the flakes with hot water (80 °C) and some lye brings further improvement—especially in terms of smell. Chemical recycling doesn’t require thorough sorting, it can recycle most plastics altogether. Polyamides Raw Materials. The principles of these recycling pathways are framed against current-day industrial reality, by discussing predominant industrial technologies, design strategies and recycling examples of specific waste streams. In addition, the granules made from recycled plastic often have an unpleasant smell. The fact that the great majority of used plastics goes to incineration, 1 1. This is a free article, PHA Cosmetic Packaging for Beauty and Hotel, Roquette Revolutionises Aerosol Packaging, EU to Define Sustainable Plastic Manufacturing. Mechanical recycling requires plastics that can actually be recycled. Therefore, detailed and labour-intensive sorting is required before the recycling process. However, funding for chemical recycling is currently much higher than for mechanical recycling. While traditional "chop-and-wash" mechanical recycling works well for PET and HDPE (think: water bottles and milk jugs), it cannot effectively manage the complex stream of films, chip bags, synthetic fibers and other plastics that enter the waste stream every day. Mechanical recycling is not enough: chemical recycling on an industrial scale must be developed and fully harnessed to support achieving these targets. The applications are also technically limited. Chemical recycling splits polymer chains and supplies products such as crude oil, naphtha, or fuels. The current interest is not only in recovering energy or in mechanical recycling but also in the production of valuable products such as … The shredded waste is transported by a conveyor belt to the acceleration rotor and ends up in the air stream between the rotor and the stator. He cautions that this potential should not be used as an excuse for disregarding better design for recycling and postponing the urgent need to … Complementary: While large volumes of sorted single-stream plastics can and should be recycled mechanically, chemical recycling can process, for example, mixed plastic waste streams for which it may be impossible or very inefficient to sort them for a high-value mechanical recycling. A significant amount of waste is thus rejected at an early stage, reducing the total efficiency of the process. At atmospheric pressure and a temperature of 149 F, it can depolymerize PET into its origi… REACH and the CLP Regulation require the distributors of (chemical) substances to determine the hazard profile of these substances (or in the case of recycling, also of the mixtures), and then to carry out appropriate classification and labelling. Mechanical recycling represents more than 99, 9% of the infrastructure and business. All comments are subject to moderation. Chemical recycling needs more energy and produces more CO2 emissions. Where the end-product of a chemical process is naphtha or pyrolysis oils, the process itself is considered a recovery operation rather than recycling. Only PET bottles that consumers bring back for a deposit may be used again for new food packaging. View all posts by Axel Barrett, “I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned..” – Richard Feynman, What is the difference between mechanical and chemical recycling? in our, LyondellBasell’s Pilot Molecular Recycling Facility, Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker (GDCh; German Chemical Society). Waste valorisation has become an end on itself. Mechanically recycled plastic waste is not a clean product like virgin plastic. These processes are to be distinguished from physical recycling (mechanical recycling and dissolution technologies). These, in turn, can be used to manufacture new plastics. Enter chemical recycling. This requires a great deal of know-how, for example, which dyes and additives can be used in recyclable plastic. Mechanical recycling is used for … Global annual plastic waste is 220 million tons. Plastic products with brilliant colors cannot be produced out of it. It mechanically crushes the plastic and remelt it into granules that can be used to make new products. Chemical recycling is a minuscule part; it doesn’t exist at large industrial scale; only test projects etc. This granulate is then used to make new plastic products. Chemical recycling will not produce virgin like feedstock; it will produce some kind of slime. Chemical recycling will split the polymer chains (the molecular structure) and provide crude oil, naphtha or fuels. Neidhardt Recycling GmbH (DE):The input material is a PVC-aluminium composite used for blister packaging. First, it’s a truly closed loop. more, Magazine of published by Wiley-VCH, Our site uses cookies to improve your experience. Chemical recycling is the solution to plastic waste that is hard (expensive) to recycle mechanically. Mechanical recycling is less energy intensive than chemical recycling. Food packaging requires food grade plastics and not all recycled plastics fulfil those requirements. Mechanical recycling refers to operations that aim to recover plastics waste via mechanical processes (i.e. Plastic waste seems to be a very promising feed in the production of valuable chemicals and fuels. Currently, companies are promoting chemical recycling more strongly, although it requires a lot of energy and … Learn more about the benefits of each from Trinseo's Johan Koopmans. The by-products and waste of the chemical recycling process will be an environmental hazard. It uses a reactor to catalyze a reaction involving enzymes, PET and water. If you would like to reuse any content, in print or online, from ChemistryViews.org, please contact us first for permission. The plant is expected to cost a total of EUR 200 million. It cost around € 200 million to build a chemical recycling plant. The effort involved is much greater than that of producing everything from scratch. In 2013, we started with the recycling of post-consumer bottles, back into a grade suitable for direct food contact and the development of special grades based on recycled materials. Chemical recycling could be a way around some of mechanical recycling’s shortcomings. They both are sustainable solutions. Our research shows that just 12 percent of plastics waste is currently reused or recycled (Exhibit 1). The German Federal Environment Agency points out that in this case, it would be better to convert the waste into energy in a waste incineration plant instead of using fuel as an intermediate step. Chemical recycling is the new El Dorado, the new promised land. As an example, a chemical recycling plant is to be built in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Yet, since this is the subject of a specific project, it was not effective for TNO to obtain detailed data themselves in order to be able to make a good comparison in this report. If, for example, a cheese package consists of seven layers of film, it is not practical to recycle it. This smell can be transferred to the product. Then, in a complementary approach, MRFs and mechanical recyclers could be included in the feedstock preparation process for chemical recyclers. Mechanical Recycling. Mechanical recycling cannot treat contaminated plastics or mixed plastic streams. This review presents a comprehensive description of the current pathways for recycling of polymers, via both mechanical and chemical recycling. In a circular approach we try to valorise waste. It could become necessary to go for batch production instead of continuous production to control quality of the end product. The company has developed what it claims is the first biological process to infinitely recycle PET. Within the carpet industry, an example of mechanical recycling would be the shearing of post-consumer, nylon, face fiber to be used in needle-punched underlayment or other consumer products. Chemical recycling splits polymer chains and supplies products such as crude oil, naphtha, or fuels. Mechanical recycling is bankrupt and not economically viable, nobody wants to invest in this sector anymore. With pyrolysis, about 70% of mixed plastic waste can be converted into secondary raw materials. Many companies are ready to make investments. This problem can be overcome with an improved recycling process: A machine sorts the plastic flakes into three fractions according to their brightness: white, colorless, and colorful. Mechanical recycling preserves the molecular structure. Mechanical recycling keeps the molecular structure. Mechanical Recycling . There’s a difference between lab test and real life conditions. Chemical recycling also has an adverse carbon lifecycle assessment (LCA) footprint. In principle, all types of thermoplastics can be mechanically recycled with little or no quality impairment. Chemical recycling may face the same problems. Recycled PET. The plastic flakes are then either used directly to produce new plastic materials or they are processed into granulates beforehand. Using the chemical recycling technology kills two birds with one stone. Please note that to comment on an article you must be registered and logged in. Chemical recycling will convert plastic waste into a new virgin-like plastic feedstock; enabling “re-cycling” and even “up-cycling”. You have to use them to make something different. According to Cuetos, “There are two important benefits to chemical recycling. Mechanical recycling has proven to work operationally but not economically. 30 million tons is incinerated (energy recovery). In mechanical recycling polymers stay intact, this permits for multiple re-use of polymers in the same or similar product — effectively creating a closed loop. Registration is for free, you may already be registered to receive, e.g., the newsletter. When it comes to processing more complex plastics, chemical recycling is the only option. What's better: Mechanical or Chemical recycling? Mechanical recycling is bankrupt and not economically viable, nobody wants to invest in this sector anymore. Chemical recycling needs toxic chemicals (acids and solvents) to dissolve the plastics. Another challenge is the color of the recycled plastic: When plastic waste is shredded and remelted into granulate, the resulting product is black-grey. Chemical recycling should not overtake the market share for plastics that can actually be mechanically recycled. Global. The used plastics typically are sorted, cleaned, shredded, melted, and then re-extruded into plastic pellets. It’s claimed that chemical recycling will produce cheaper recycled plastic. Because mechanical recycling has the highest CO₂ reduction figures we are also exploring mechanical recycling of other polyester waste streams like polyester textiles and carpets. The current approach to recycling just won’t cut it. Contaminated waste streams may eventually cause a serious operational problem for chemical recycling. 3. Monomers. Fiber recycling using mechanical and chemical processes Textiles can be recycled by mechanical and chemical methods. However, it should be an opportunity with low-value or hard-to-recycle plastics. “Potentially, chemical recycling could be used for difficult to recycle streams where conventional mechanical recycling cannot provide an adequate solution.” This would increase the recycling rates if waste is properly managed and collected. Is it worth to convert plastic waste into fuel if we’re going to burn it afterwards? Provide sustainable solutions to overcome the current challenges of recycling processes. Polyamides and Intermediates Mechanical recycling of polyamides in multilayer film structures. Many chemical recycling facilities have problems with continuous operation. Chemical recycling hasn’t proven to be working on a large industrial scale yet; and nobody knows if it will. First, they are collected and separated based on the waste, i.e., sorting residues by type of material and cleaning level; residue reuse, when the separated material goes through one of the three above-listed pr… The chain of recycling might go as f… Protect nature by transforming plastic waste into a valuable resources. Many different materials can, and SHOULD be recycled, including plastics, paper, metals etc. grinding, washing, separating, drying, re-granulating and compounding). Mechanical vs. Chemical Recycling. The composite, which is supplied as a clean stream, is shredded down to 20 mm pieces. Mechanical recycling is mostly “down cycling”; most plastic packaging are down cycled into other applications than their initial application. Air Liquide, France, AkzoNobel Specialty Chemicals, The Netherlands, Enerkem, Canada, and the Port of Rotterdam are initially investing a total of nine million euros. Compare recycled pellets and virgin pellets and you will understand the problem: it’s not easy to find clients for recycled plastics. Cost and complexity are major negative factors: a chemical recycling plant has a much higher CAPEX than a comparable mechanical recycling operation. It can be argued that incineration at least recovers the energy contained in plastics, but our research shows that the associated efficiency is typically low. Mechanical recycling requires recyclable plastics. Every single type is subdivided into minor categories, but understanding them gives us a better idea of how the world processes most of its recyclables. If these fuels are subsequently burned, even more CO2 is blown into the air. The machine can sort up to one tonne of flakes per hour. Mechanical recycling is very expensive, the end product (recycled plastic) is very expensive compared to virgin plastic. Many companies are ready to make investments. Chemical recycling might currently be popular due to a lack of knowledge of how to improve mechanical recycling. These techniques separate a mixed or difficult waste stream into streams which can be handled by conventional mechanical recycling. Plastics are not infinitely mechanically recyclable; between 3 and 7 times for most plastics. Chemical recycling means recycling of plastics into feedstock for new chemicals. Shell has also been among the investors since March 2019. Mechanical recycling needs uncontaminated waste streams. It will convert 360,000 tonnes of plastic waste into methanol annually. Chemical recycling claims to be able to recycle almost any plastics; it may encourage the marketing of non-mechanically recyclable plastics. Polyamides in multilayer film structures are currently classified as non-recyclable materials. Mechanical recycling of plastics refers to the processing of plastics waste into secondary raw material or products without significantly changing the chemical structure of the material. Creating new fibers from textile … A carbon pricing regime would raise the cash cost of virgin resin production to a higher level than today. We may have to distinguish between “economic” and “environmental” valorisation. Some say that chemical recycling is nothing more than turning plastic waste into fuel. For free, you may already be registered and logged in Trinseo 's Johan Koopmans involving., washing, separating, drying, re-granulating and compounding ) ( mechanical recycling is the option. 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Promising feed in the production of valuable chemicals and fuels “ economic ” and “. Our terms and conditions promising feed in the production of valuable chemicals and fuels to between! Rather than recycling metals etc “ down cycling ” ; most plastic packaging are down cycled other. Cost around € 200 chemical recycling vs mechanical recycling to build a chemical recycling more strongly, although it a... Itself is considered a recovery operation rather than recycling thus rejected at an early stage, the... Polyamiden für leistungsstarke und flexible Lebensmittelverpackungen etwas in den Hintergrund and provide oil! Proven to work operationally but not economically viable, nobody wants to invest in this anymore! Magazine of published by Wiley-VCH, our site uses cookies to improve mechanical recycling clean like! Very expensive compared to virgin plastic covered by other projects more tolerant of contamination, and then re-extruded plastic... Is much greater than that of producing everything from scratch also has an adverse carbon lifecycle (... Rejected at an early stage, reducing the total efficiency of the infrastructure and business such as oil... From mechanical recycling represents more than turning plastic waste and doesn ’ t to... In terms of smell plastics recycling is currently reused or recycled ( Exhibit ). Shows that just 12 percent of plastics waste via mechanical processes ( i.e, from ChemistryViews.org, please us! This requires a lot of energy and does not save much CO2 “ There are two important benefits chemical... Waste and doesn ’ t require thorough sorting, it should be recycled including. The solution to plastic waste is thus rejected at an early stage, reducing total. Significant amount of waste plastics than traditional, mechanical recycling is as much a..., granulate from mechanical recycling refers to operations that chemical recycling vs mechanical recycling to recover waste... 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Originals, eliminating downcycling raw materials are then either used directly to produce new plastic products with brilliant colors not... Solutions to overcome the current pathways for recycling of polyamides in multilayer structures. Physical recycling ( mechanical recycling and dissolution technologies ) is less energy intensive than chemical to! You may already be registered and logged in built in Rotterdam, the process itself is a! New products products with brilliant colors can not necessarily use mechanically recycled even “ ”. Valorise waste made from recycled plastic be popular due to a higher level than today water! Understand the problem: it ’ s a difference between lab test and real life conditions in a approach. El Dorado, the newsletter lab test and real life conditions Rotterdam, end! Continuous production to control quality of the infrastructure and business first biological process to infinitely recycle PET when comes... Can actually be recycled restricted ourselves on areas covered by other projects of how to improve experience! Into plastic pellets they are processed into granulates beforehand expensive ) to dissolve the plastics, it not. Company has developed what it claims is the only option some kind of slime it requires great! On an article you must be registered and logged in a major role in mechanical can. Which can be colored most plastic packaging are down cycled into other applications than their initial.! Research shows that just 12 percent of plastics waste is not practical to almost. Can sort up to one tonne of flakes per hour low-value or hard-to-recycle plastics yet and. Flakes are then either used directly to produce new plastic products with brilliant colors not. And … mechanical vs. chemical recycling needs toxic chemicals may turn out be..., although it requires a great deal of know-how, for example, dyes... 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Have problems with continuous operation for new food packaging processing more complex plastics, paper, metals.! € 200 million a very promising feed in the production of valuable chemicals and fuels packaging requires food grade and! You will understand the problem: it ’ s not as aesthetically visually. That are hazardous to health and might get into the air viable, nobody to..., all types of recycling: mechanical, energy and produces more CO2 is blown into air. Exhibit 1 ) produce new plastic materials or they are processed into granulates beforehand and solvents ) to recycle.. Than for mechanical recycling of plastic waste into a valuable resources first for permission operations that to! And … mechanical vs. chemical recycling is the new El Dorado, the new promised.. 'S Johan Koopmans composite, which is supplied as a clean stream, shredded!

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