The Netherlands – A new technology allows the efficient recycling of polystyrene, even though this waste stream contains toxic chemicals such as brominated flame retardants, so says Dutch non-profit group Polystyrene Loop. Backed by a EUR 2.7 million grant from the EU Life innovation fund and help from industry partners such as Fraunhofer Institute, it is getting ready to develop a demonstration plant by next year.
More than 200 000 tonnes of HBCDD have been used in polystyrene worldwide since the ‘60s. Because the material is mainly being used as an insulation material, it stands to reason that a great amount of polysterene foam will need to be recycled by 2020, following the demolition of aging buildings.
The long-term solution of reprocessing PS foam waste into a raw material represents ‘one of the key expectations’ derived from the circular economy objectives, urges Polysterene Loop. It cites the fact that Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCDD) present in recycled materials at more than 100 ppm are not allowed to be marketed.
The new recycling plant, to be located in Terneuzen, will have an annual capacity of treating a maximum of 3000 tonnes of PS foam annually and will be operated by a separately funded entity.
The facility’s novel recycling process is called the CreaSolv technique, which was developed by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute. Once higher volumes of PS foam become available, this technique can be further introduced all over Europe to handle and process locally the HBCDD containing PS foam and convert it into clean PS.
An XRF analysis proved that bromine concentrations in the output material was ‘reduced sufficiently’, measuring below 50 ppm. The innovative site will ‘demonstrate the technical and economic feasibilities of closing the PS loop,’ the project partners state.
The recycled polysterene can be re-used in the same application while the recovered bromine can be used for a variety of applications such as the manufacture of comparably sustainable flame retardants for plastic materials.