1. DESCRIPTION OF TECHNOLOGY
Mechanical recycling is a method by which waste materials are recycled into “new” (secondary) raw materials without changing the basic structure of the material. It is also known as material recycling, material recovery or, related to plastics, back-to-plastics recycling.
Post consumer plastic waste can be a very inhomogeneous and potentially contaminated waste fraction. It comprises a huge range of material types, with shape and size ranging widely, and in many cases the input material is composed of different material types (e.g. multilayer lms or composite items). The material passes extensive manual or automated mechanical sorting processes in specialised facilities, designed to separate the different material streams. The proper identi cation of materials is essential for achie- ving a maximised purity of recyclates. For this purpose, various technologies
2. CURRENT DISTRIBUTION AND PROSPECTIVE OF TECHNOLOGY
Mechanical recycling is a well-established technology for the material recovery of conventional plastics, such as polyethylene (PE), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polypropylene (PP) and polystyrene (PS). Its main advantage is that part of the resources consumed for the production of the plastic materials is not wasted, but preserved for a use in the same, similar or different application.
According to PlasticsEurope, in Europe on average 26 percent of post- consumer plastics waste were recycled in 2012.2 This figure covers the overall material recycling (both mechanical recycling and feedstock recycling3).
With further efforts for waste collection and treatment systems in Europe, the volume of recycled and recovered plastics waste should increase. Also, the legal framework will most likely pose new requirements to the industry to extend the share of recycling and recovery over time.
Mechanical recycling of products and packaging made from bioplastics is possible from a technical point of view. As a matter of fact, in house and post-industrial waste is normally recycled using conventional techniques.
Products made with biobased equivalents of conventional polymers (so- called drop-ins) do not differ from fossil based products when it comes to mechanical recycling. Other innovative biopolymers can be also recovered with mechanical recycling, especially when sufficient volumes of homogenous waste material streams are available, either through separate collection or through sorting routines.