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Issue 06/2022

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Highlights: Films / Flexibles / Bags Consumer Electronics Basics: Chemical Recycling K'2022 review

Events the 1970s),

Events the 1970s), Plastic Energy (who has been working on this technology for more than 25 years), and Agilyx (with 18 years of experience) might disagree with that assessment, but all of them need to scale up their production as these technologies are only now becoming more relevant, or rather popular. Franz-Xaver Keilbach from KraussMaffei Extrusion (Laatzen, Germany) indirectly spoke up against the infancy of the industry saying that it’s not just theory, “there is a lot of machinery already in the market”. He further elaborated on the limitations of such machines saying that it is mainly throughput which basically depends simply on the size of the extruders themselves – “customers are asking for 5 tonnes per hour minimum”. Throughput and time involved in a process are also of consideration for other processes, Carbios enzymatic recycling can “easily reach recycling yields of up to 98 %”, however, when considering the industrialisation of the process they aim to strike a balance between yield and speed wanting to limit their process at 16 hours aiming for a yield of 92 %. Finetuning a process takes time and expertise and “more isn’t always better” as Frieder Dreisbach from TA Instruments (New Castle, DE, USA) pointed out talking about the use of catalysts in advanced recycling processes. Commenting on the bigger picture in Europe in the context of plastic waste export bans, Luis Hoffmann from Sulzer Chemtech (Winterthur, Switzerland) says that the fact that “plastics have to be processed locally in the future is an opportunity for the industry”. This opportunity has to be financed somehow of course so it is maybe not that strange that ING (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) send Marc Borghans to talk about how to finance such projects. When asked about legislation he pointed out that legislative decisions are not unimportant (e.g. the classification of advanced recycled materials for recycling quotas) but even if these technologies won’t be accepted by regulation that would not mean that banks would not finance them. Perhaps connected to that, Michael Wiener from DSD – Duales System also pointed out that “mechanical recycling has still room to improve” and grow. Another big issue is how to get all the sorted waste streams to the installations that will recycle them – there is still a need for a whole (or many) new infrastructure(s). There is sadly no one-fix-all solution, no silver bullets, or as Joop Groen representing the Circular Biobased Delta (Bergen op Zoom, the Netherlands) pointed out, “the best solution is (always) feedstock specific”. Scale-up, efficiency, location, and how to pay for all of that are, however, not the only hurdles to master on the road ahead. Let’s talk about energy Especially in more recent times, energy and energy security has become a huge topic. And in the context of sustainability, one doesn’t get around to talking about the cousin of renewable materials – renewable energies. All these projects and installations are going to need a huge amount of energy and while Luis pointed out that “resource recovery tends to be less energy intensive than virgin production” the problem of even having enough energy remains. And if we want these processes to be truly sustainable that energy needs to be renewable, or we are just lying to ourselves saving greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions left while adding them right. While talking about energy BioBTX (Groningen, the Netherlands) deserves an honorary mention, in his presentation, Tijmen Vries talked about how their process creates high-quality graphite which is needed for the building of batteries, which is really cool – albeit a bit too far from the topic of plastics to focus on in more detail. The bottom lines & LCAs At the end of the day, we have two bottom lines sustainability and costs. Companies were eager to show how much less energy a process takes or how much GHG emissions can be reduced, even how much throughput their machines have or how great their technology is. Anne-Marie de Moei-Galera from Alfa Laval (Lund, Sweden), for example, proudly exclaimed that their centrifugal separation works with 9000 G (as in 9000 times the gravity of earth) saying that she “heard yesterday (on day 1) about separation in minutes, we do separation in seconds”. Which is certainly really impressive (and a quote picked because of that and not to rain on Alfa Laval’s parade) but price comparisons with virgin materials were noticeably missing (or I missed them). Perhaps it is because, as Tom says, recycled materials and virgin will be on two separate Networking opportunities at the ARC. (Photo: nova Institut) 14 bioplastics MAGAZINE [06/22] Vol. 17

Events markets, yet it is still relevant information to estimate how much the big players will invest. Companies like Shell are not really known for their environmental ambition and one participant even provocatively asked how “Shell can ask us to take them seriously when they put Shareholder Value on the same footing as Respecting Nature while just having posted incredibly high windfall profits with a majority going to shareholder”. On the other hand, statements like “Chemical recycling should stay in the hands of those that know chemistry” (meaning, big oil companies) by Wolfgang Hofer from OMV Downstream (Vienna, Austria) do hold at least some water. Whether you like the oil industry or not Wolfgang does have a point – they know the playing field and they already have at least some infrastructure in place. If they deserve the benefit of the doubt to put sustainability and circular economy ideals before profit is a whole other story, however. Going back to the framework of sustainability it was also pointed out by Matthias Stratmann from the nova-institute, that LCAs focus a lot on GHG emissions but go broader and assess more potential trade-offs, like water use, energy, toxicity, etc. And technologies like pyrolysis are currently the go-to he did also cite a study that showed that there might be some unintentional bias towards pyrolysis it is a technology with a higher TRL (technology readiness level) and with more (and higher quality) data available. Furthermore, LCAs aren’t necessarily comparable either as they tend to focus on different aspects despite using similar methodologies – the bottom line here is, mechanical recycling is better than pyrolysis which in turn is better than the production of virgin feedstock. The role of recycling The Advanced Recycling Conference touched on plenty of topics with a broad array of experts and information and one thing is clear – times are changing. Matthias named this change quite accurately as he talked about the role of recycling, how these technologies as a whole are going to be considered, is recycling still (just) an End-of-Life solution or will it be considered as a new provider of feedstock, and thus, value. Only time will tell, but after two days and dozens of presentations and conversations I can say I learned a lot but as Joop said in his presentation, “I am still confused but on a much higher level”. The only conference dealing exclusively with cellulose fibres – Solutions instead of pollution Cellulose fibres are bio-based and biodegradable, even in marine-environments, where their degrading does not cause any microplastic. 250 participants and 30 exhibitors are expected in Cologne to discuss the following topics: CELLULOSE FIBRE INNOVATION OF THE YEAR 2023 S P O N S O R E D B Y I N N O V AT B Y N O V A - G I O N I G K A R A S E K I N S T I T U T E A W A R D • Strategies, Policy Framework of Textiles and Market Trends • New Opportunities for Cellulose Fibres in Replacing Plastics • Sustainability and Environmental Impacts • Circular Economy and Recyclability of Fibres • Alternative Feedstocks and Supply Chains • New Technologies for Pulps, Fibres and Yarns • New Technologies and Applications beyond Textiles Call for Innovation Apply for the “Cellulose Fibre Innovation of the Year 2023” Organiser Award Sponsor Sponsors bioplastics MAGAZINE [06/22] Vol. 17 15

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