The emerging MultiCycle proposition will be thoroughly evaluated, not just at at the technical level, but for its sustainability in development and implementation across the board.

Led by specialists in the field at Vertech Group, environmental, social and economic assessments are being undertaken using recognized best practice approaches: Environmental Life Cycle Assessment  (LCA) to ISO 14040/14044 guidelines, Social LCA (S-LCA) for social and socio-economic aspects, and Life Cycle Cost Analysis (LCC) of both capital and operations. The full details of the scope and system boundaries being applied to the project’s LCA, S-LCA and LCC assessments have now been established.

An integrated evaluation of the techno-economic-environmental feasibility of the proposed process and plant evaluated, will generate recommendations for future up-scaling and help inform policy recommendations.

To help overcome the challenge of complexity in multilayer plastics and fibre reinforced composites and stimulate steps towards a Circular Economy model, a strategic approach is required to improve recycling and foster reuse. A whole value chain based decision support tool will be be developed by AXIA Innovation based on an advanced multicriteria optimization model allowing

  • Development of efficient networks depending on plastic waste properties and characterization
  • Local circular business model opportunities and logistics stategies to be identfiied
  • Informed decision making about which circular paths to pursue based on simulating materials over several life cycles and trade offs between amounts recovered and performance.

MultiCycle is not just about demonstrating impressive new processing technology. Setting up the initial value chains, and raising industry acceptance and demand for more sustainable materials are also crucial to success, and this process begins with the demonstration of the potential of recovered materials in packaging and automotive applications.

Materials for Packaging Applications

Here a group of partners led by Amcor with substantial input from Fraunhofer IVV will be focusing on the use of the recycled plastics in new, easy-to-recycle packaging designs, based on material performance, cost and relevant regulatory considerations like food-use compliance.

The properties of materials arising from the MultiCycle pilot plant will be assessed relative to virgin benchmark materials. We will be producing single- and multi-layered packaging materials from the recovered plastics to evaluate their functional performance, once again in comparison to virgin-supply produced products, to  validate their quality for food and non-food packaging applications, and confirm their usability relative to applicable legislative and industrial requirements.

Materials for Automotive Applications

In parallel to the work on packaging applications, partners aligned to the automotive value chain, including FARPLAS,  TofaşSILONCentexbel and Bond Laminates, will be producing a variety of parts  – injection mouldings, textile nonwovens, carbon fibre reinforced composites – from the materials recovered by the MultiCycle pilot plant.

There will be work carried out to validate both the processability and resulting performance of the recycled materials in automotive applications when compared to the use of virgin materials, to confirm their usability for a range of industrial automotive applications. This will require upscaling of compounding process, and production and characterisation of textile nonwovens for the car interior, carbon and glass-fibre reinforced composite materials, and structural/semi-structural automotive parts.

 

At the heart of MultiCycle is the engineering, installation and commissioning of a CreaSolv® pilot plant, and the demonstration of its performance under optimal operation. The pilot plant will handle both composites and multilayer packaging found in currently non-recycled plastic waste mixed streams, recovering high quality recycled polymers and polymer free fibres in good yield for re-use in high end applications.

LÖMI GmbH will bring together their own expertise in high-quality and innovative process engineering systems and inputs from key technology partners, in particular Fraunhofer IVV and IRIS to integrate all the critical hardware engineering (rigs, pumps, filters, piping etc.) and software systems (PAT advanced sensing and monitoring) into a coherent whole process which will be installed and comprehensively commissioned to relevant ATEX, CE and ISO standards at a suitable production facility location.

Once operational, larger scale representative waste streams reflecting the output from best, average and worst-in-class sorting systems practice  in European will be treated in the pilot plant both to  validate the broad potential of the MultiCycle recycling pilot plan and to provide extensive large scale demonstration of the MultiCycle pilot recycling process for both multilayer packaging and fibre-reinforced composites.

At this stage, the materials recovered from treated waste will be characterized with respect to their application in plastic packaging, textiles and composites. This will involve effort from across the consortium, but particularly Centexbel.

Thermoplastic polymers will be assesed for their rheological and thermal behaviour, and their properties compared with virgin polymers designed for the envisaged reprocessing techniques, such as melt extrusion. Recycled carbon and glass fibres will be analysed for their mechanical and surface properties and compared to their primary manufactured counterparts by Centexbel and  Bond Laminates respectively. The residual sizing on the fibres (an important contributor to optimal fibre matrix adhesion) will also be determined. It is hoped that, with conditions suitably tuned, the CreaSolv® process will be able to selectively partly maintain the sizing on the fibres.

Since the materials with which we are working may have undergone some degradation during their previous working life (the CreaSolv® process itself does not lead to further downgrading), it may be expected that a degree of property “tuning” will be required if recycled thermoplastics are to be used for new applications via compounding.

Optimal additive approaches will be developed by AIMPLAS to i) protect polymers during compounding and processing and during their lifespan, ii) improve their processing behaviour, iii) increase melt strength and molecular weight, and iv) improve specific functional properties related to their end use. Wherever possible additives, additional compounds or fillers recovered from the Creasolv® process, will be considered for these roles, closing further material recovery and reuse loops.

 

Technical work is well underway to obtain and evaluate a wide selection of waste material streams representing the variety of material types which the MultiCycle pilot plant might be expected to handle, and to identify from this a broad window of suitable waste stream requirements within which economic and practical processing could take place.

Using their reach into the relevant supply and value chains, partners such as ArkemaBond LaminatesFARPLAS, and Amcor have secured numerous samples of both industrial scrap and post-consumer wastes and sent these back to a hub location at Fraunhofer IVV, the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging. Both laboratory characterization and experimentation on an existing CreaSolv® small-scale pilot plant is being used to parameterize the MultiCycle process, and to inform the design of a 25 kg/h scale, continuous pilot plant concept, including suitable monitoring systems for plastic waste composition tracking and process control being developed by IRIS Technology Group.

Trials at this stage will be dealing ultimately with representative, tailor-made samples of around 100 kg of targeted waste streams, which will be processed over multiple batches to allow testing of process stability and multiple use of recovered solvents. This will also enable the quality of recovered target polymers to be assessed and will provide samples for post-processing.

Work during the early months of the project has produced an up to date review of the technical and patent literature dealing with recycling processes for MultiCycle’s target multi-materials and established the specifications for the different processes involved in material recovery and reprocessing, providing an understand of the requirements of converters and end users in terms of properties, price etc. for the resulting secondary raw materials produced.

A review of the relevant literature and industry trends has been assembled which offers a broad view of the current state of play with respect to plastic waste generation and the current state of the art in recycling technology.

The regulatory drive to establish higher recycling targets means that the recycling sector must be developed in the coming years, however the current options for the MultiCycle target materials are limited: both multi-material/multi-layer flexible packaging and reinforced plastics in End of Life Vehicles (ELV) are predominantly sent for fuel/energy recovery.

In view of their limited recycling options, the growth of the Fibre Reinforced Plastics (FRP) market in both carbon and glass fibre reinforced materials, does not help in meeting the goals of the ELV Directive. This presents an opportunity for MultiCycle, and especially the CreaSolv® selective material recovery technology at the heart of the project, which has the potential to increase the recycling volume of multi-layer packaging and FRP, and to do so producing high quality recovered polymeric and other materials including fibres.

The regulatory drive to establish higher recycling targets combined with limited current recycling options for the relevant target materials presents an opportunity for MultiCycle.

Consideration of the solvent-based CreaSolv® process requirements has shown that these have a large share in the selection of the respective technical components. With the help of the installed pilot plant, the entire plant technology is to be achieved by a smooth up-scaling to Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 7. Furthermore critical process parameters that may influence the stable operation of the plant have been identified, and initial information provided on possible monitoring systems, and on which components of a motor vehicle can be used within the framework of the project to increase the recycling quota of ELVs.

The Multicycle project’s six-month General Assembly meeting was an opportunity for partners to update collectively on progress made in the opening months of the project, and to build momentum behind the next steps towards up-scaling the CreaSolv® novel solvent-based process for recycling multi-materials packaging and composites.

Hosted by project co-ordinator IRIS Technology Group at their Parc Mediterrani de la Tecnologia headquarters in Castelldefels, Spain on 28th and 29th May 2019 the meeting heard that solid technical foundations had been laid down in the form of work done to define and establish the specifications for the different processes that will be involved in material recovery and reprocessing at the heart of the project and the requirements of those at whom the materials recovered from the Multicycle process will be targeted (e.g. converters and end users) in terms of properties, price etc. A technical and patent art literature review has concluded that whilst there is regulatory drive to reach higher material recycling targets, the current options for the Multicycle target materials are limited: at the moment both multi-material/multi-layer flexible packaging and reinforced plastics in End of Life Vehicles (ELV) are predominantly sent for fuel/energy recovery. This presents an opportunity for Multicycle, to provide a timely demonstration of selective material recovery which can increase the recycling volume of multi-layer packaging and FRP, producing high quality recovered polymeric and other materials including fibres.

Elsewhere, work continues apace across the consortium gathering a wide variety of samples of manufacturing scrap and post-use plastic waste representative of the range and variety of materials which the Multicycle pilot plant might be expected to handle, and to identify from this a broad window of suitable waste stream requirements within which economic and practical processing can take place. These samples are being characterized both in the laboratory and also using the existing small pilot facilities of Fraunhofer IVV, the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging to parameterize the proposed Multicycle process.

Example of flexible packaging film scrap (top left) and shredded automotive waste (bottom left) and recovered homopolymer film (top right) and fibres (bottom right) 

In addition to getting the central, tuneable selective recovery solvent chemistry right, the final integrated Multicycle pilot facility will also be reliant upon effective advanced process control and monitoring systems, so it was appropriate that the meeting location provided an opportunity for the consortium partners to be introduced to some of the host organization’s platform NIR and Hyper-Spectral Imaging hand-held and in-line technologies for real-time  process monitoring and quality inspection.

Work will continue in the coming months to extend and develop the definition of the Multicycle process as a sustainable, closed-loop, contributor to circular plastics economy in the EU.

New partners Coventry and Warwick University hosted the month 24 meeting of the ECOBULK partners at Scarman Conference Center in Coventry, UK. The main focus was on finalising the plans and ambitions for the real-life demonstrations that are due to begin.

In this newsletter:

  1. Project Updates
  2. Coventry, Cars And Circular Economy
  3. Serious Circular Gaming
  4. Events
ECOBULK M24 Progress Bar

Project Update

The baseline value chain for each sector was established and then used analyse the implications of circularity.

The main thrust of the last few months has been the definition of the demonstrations as complete circular chains. Oakdene Hollins and TUDelft have been helping our demo partners find ways of implementing circular business and design solutions that integrate their whole value chain.

Read more

Coventry, Cars and Circular Economy

The innovative heart of the British auto industry is still beating. ECOBULK partners recently gathered in Coventry, home of hydrogen cars pioneer MicroCab and our two new demonstration partners Warwick and Coventry University, to talk about the challenges of increasing circularity in the auto industry.

Read  more

Partners enjoyed a tour of the MicroCab facilities in Coventry.

Seriously Circular Gaming

Partner FCBA has been thinking about how to help companies become more circular. Sometimes companies will be inspired by new ideas and possibilities, other times they need to consider technical challenges, and always they will have to take into account the business models will have to be adapted to a circular value chain. At the  Ecobulk meeting in Coventry, FCBA gave the partners a chance to play test their new educational game.

Read more

Events

Coming Up:

  1. PLATE 2019 – TUDelft will present their design strategy framework as well as results from workshops in ECOBULK at the Product Lifetimes and the Environment conference in Berlin;
  2. AMI WTBM 2019 – Conenor will be presenting its work on re-manufacturing GFRP waste at the annual wind industry in Germany this December;
  3. ISWA World Congress 2019 – ECOBULK project presentation and promotion in October 2019 in Bilbao;
  4. POLYCHAR – partner IPCB-CNR will organise the 27th Polychar conference in October 2019 in Naples;

Past Events:

  1. EcoComp 2019 – partner Coventive co-organised the conference and presented their work on circular composite materials at the event
    TUDelft was also there to talk about design for circularity;
  2. ITMA 2019 – partner Next Technology represented their work and contributions to Ecobulk at this latest edition of the Textile & Garment Technology Exhibition in Barcelona;

The innovative heart of the British auto industry is still beating.

Coventry is the traditional home of the British automotive industry. The industry reached its peak around 1950, when the UK was the second-largest car manufacturing country of the world. At this time there were 12 manufacturers in Coventry including then household names such as Rover, Jaguar and BMC (makers of the Mini) and it became known as the British Detroit. The size of the industry may have declined, but the knowledge has remained.  Coventry is emerging as a research centre with the opening of the National Automotive Innovation Centre as well as current expansion plans from JLR. In the midst of all this, ECOBULK gathered to finalise their plans to demonstrate the circular composite materials and prototypes that have been developed in the last 2 years.

MicroCab is one of the companies in Coventry working to rethink the car as a sustainable mode of transport for the future. Their vision is based on hydrogen fuel cells replacing the internal combustion engine and tailoring the design of the car to be highly efficient in its expected use. Within the ECOBULK consortium, they are pioneering a leasing business model that would allow them to maintain ownership of the car and sell mobility as a service. Following the circular philosophy, they are creating a modular design that fits with a regular maintenance schedule that exchanges parts, not just for maintenance, but also as an opportunity to modernise and upgrade the user experience over the multi-decade life of the car.

Maintaining ownership of the vehicle, MicroCab envisions various new opportunities that would allow them to increase the lifespan of the cars as well as the possibilities of re-using parts. The cars they design are highly efficient for their targeted use, but as we all well know, people’s use and expectations of a product are constantly changing. As the usage mode of the car changes, MicroCab will be able to switch out parts and make the car adaptable to the changing market needs without having to junk an old car or produce a whole new one.

Large fragment ELV shredder sample
Small fragment ELV shredder fraction

Recycling is a growing issue with end of life vehicles, particularly in light of the increasing demands from governments to achieve higher re-use and recycling rates. At the end of life, a car is first stripped of any valuable major parts that are easily taken out. But after that, it is shredder time. The shredded particles are then separated out to Ferrous and Non-Ferrous metals, with a large mix of materials left over. The left-over materials contain a lot of plastics, but separating plastics, and in particular different types of plastics, can be quite difficult. However, with recycling targets now set at a minimum of 85%, this can only be possible by recycling these after-shredding plastics. TOMRA has been working together with Bellver and AIMPLAS to demonstrate the possibilities to to sort out these plastics in a way that is useful to recycling.

Interior fascia parts to be made with mixed plastic composites salvaged from ELV plastic waste.

Meanwhile partners FIAT and MAIER are getting to grips with the challenge of incorporating the salvaged plastics into internal car parts using composite materials. One of the core circular principles is to simplify and separate both parts and materials at the design stage to enable better re-use and re-cycling options at the end of life stage. However, vehicles reaching the end-of-life stage tend to be between 10 and 20 years old, which means that changes in design would only start affecting the availability of recycled materials at least 10 years from the start of production. To maintain the core practical demonstration purpose of the project, they will have to prove how they can take a large mix of plastic waste from 10 year old cars, and integrate it as efficiently as possible into the production of new parts. While designing to use mixed plastics might sound decidedly un-circular, it is perhaps the only practical demonstration that takes into account the fact that the automotive industry will always have to deal with design and material choices from at least a decade ago.