3 Successful Plastics Recycling Projects for Recycle Week

Celebrating Recycling Success

The theme of the 2018 Recycle Week (24-30 September)  is ‘Recycling. We do. Because it matters.’  Recycle Week is a celebration of recycling, organised by WRAP under the ‘Recycle Now‘ brand.

Recycling has never been more prominent in the news, with managing plastic waste high on the agenda.  We work with many plastic recycling companies and have provided many magnetic separators and metal detectors to remove metal contamination.  To celebrate Recycle Week we wanted to talk about plastics recycling success and also highlight the changes faced by companies recycling plastic.

EcoVyn Reduce Waste by 94% with Bunting Drawer Magnets

Bunting Magnetics Drawer Magnets at Ecovyn

EcoVyn Ltd is at the forefront of PVC compounding and brings pioneering new technology to the market place.  They offer one of the most advanced and innovative production processes in the UK producing reprocessed, blended and virgin compounds for a variety of applications.  By installing Drawer Magnet Filters, EcoVyn reduced their waste by 94%.

HFS Drawer Magnets Removes Metal from Recycled Plastics

HFS_Grate_Magnet_Plastics-1866

A French plastic recycling company installed the Drawer Magnets to remove fine iron contamination present in the recovered and granulated plastic.  If the metal is left in the reclaimed plastic, it causes serious defects in the new plastic product and can also damage processing equipment.

Metal Separation Module Cleans Recycled Plastics for Recapture Plastics

Bunting Metal Separation System Recapture Plastics LinkedIn

A new plastics recycling plant was built in Kent, UK.  The plant was designed to handle up to 25 tonnes per hour of reclaimed plastic.  Once shredded, the plastic is passed over a strong Drum Magnet (to remove small ferrous metals) followed by an Eddy Current Separator (to remove non-ferrous metals).  The end product is also passed through a Quicktron Metal Detector prior to the clean plastic being bagged ready for shipment.

Contamination Hinders Plastic Recycling

We work with many plastic recycling companies located across the world.  Every company is faced with the problem of contamination.  Contaminated plastic waste is worthless and processing is required to remove contaminants, such as metal and stone, to make this waste product reusable.

We are fortunate to be working with some amazing companies in the waste and recycling sector.  Their innovation and knowledge continually increases the amount of materials we can recycle and reuse.

For further information metal separation equipment designed for removing metal from plastic waste and in other recycling applications, please visit our website or contact us on:

Phone: +44 (0) 1442 875081
Email: press@buntingeurope.com
Via the website

Photographs taken by Paul Fears Photography

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3 Facts About Plastic Packaging Waste

Latest 2016 Waste Recycling DEFRA Data

The UK’s largest recycling exhibition, RWM, takes place on the 12th and 13th September 2018 (NEC, Birmingham, UK).  Leading up to the show, we wanted to review three key facts relating to the latest DEFRA data (from 2016) on plastic packaging waste (published in February 2018).

Waste Drinks Containers-9048

The Amount of Plastic Packaging Waste

UK households generated 1,015,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste in 2016.  This is actually 12% lower than in 2012, although the amount has been relatively stagnant since 2103.  In 2016, 20% of all packaging waste was plastic (by weight), although this percentage would be far higher if measured by volume due to the low bulk density of the material.

A Rising Recycling Rate

45% of plastic packaging was recycled or recovered in 2016 compared with 25% in 2012.  The 2016 figure is higher than the EU target of 22.5%.  Since the beginning of 2018, the UK Government has set a new recycling and recoverable target of 57% by 2020.  This means that new strategies are needed to raise the rate by 12% in just four years.

Plastic Packaging Recycling Rates

However, there remains a question about what to do with the plastic once it has been recovered.  The UK still exports a large proportion of its waste, but this is still classed as being ‘recovered’ and is included in the 45%.  Since China closed their doors to waste, plastic waste has being shipped to countries around the world, including Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.  This is not a sustainable solution, but it not reported in the statistics.  An increasing amount of plastic waste is expected to remain in the UK and it is unclear how it will be managed.

Plastics Recycling Plants

It is widely accepted that there are not enough plastic recycling plants in the UK.  In the past, it has been difficult to economically operate a plant with high costs associated with equipment investment and site difficulties due to the flammable nature of plastic waste.

Bunting Magnetics Drawer Magnets at Ecovyn
FF Drawer Filter Magnets (supplied by Bunting Magnetics Europe Ltd) removing metal from plastic waste to enable recycling

One successful plant is located near Wrexham in North Wales where EcoVyn process 1,000 tonnes per month of good quality plastic waste.  EcoVyn installed several Drawer Filter Magnets to remove ferrous metal contamination from the granulated plastic.

The Future

There has been a huge change in the public perception of plastic waste since the showing of the BBC series Blue Planet II in 2017.  This has forced politicians to start taking action and it will be interesting to see the level of political and governmental engagement at the RWM exhibition.

For further information on metal separation equipment designed for removing metal from plastic waste and in other recycling applications, please visit our website or contact us on:

Phone: +44 (0) 1442 875081
Email: press@buntingeurope.com
Via the website

Other Plastic Waste & Recycling Articles

Metal Detectors Detecting More Than Treasure

Technology Keeping Waste Metal-Free

The BBC television series Detectorists has significantly increased the public’s awareness of metal detectors, but many people remain unaware of their importance in the recycling of waste materials.

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Although the size and design of metal detector used in the recycling industry may be different to those used by the enthusiasts on the television show, the basic concept is the same.  When an electric current is passed through the coil of a metal detector, it creates a magnetic field.  If a piece of electrically conductive metal is close to the coil, eddy currents will be induced in the metal, and this produces a magnetic field of its own.  A separate control recognises that the new magnetic field has changed the metal detector’s magnetic field and identifies that there is metal present.

Metal Detectors are becoming increasingly important in the recycling industry.  Magnetic Separators and Eddy Current Separators are widely used to remove liberated ferrous, non-ferrous and even some stainless-steel metals, but are unable to separate metals that are imbedded in material or are unresponsive to these types of metal separators.

This is particularly important in recycling operations where the waste material is large in size and needs to be shredded or granulated.  A common location for the Metal Detector is on the conveyor prior to size reduction, where it identifies the presence of any metal that may damage the shredder or granulator.  The effect of metal damage can be costly in terms of repair and also downtime.  Typical waste materials include plastic, wood, and demolition waste.

There are primarily two different types of Metal Detector suitable for detecting metal in such conveyed material.  The Underbelt Conveyor Metal Detector is ideal when handling larger materials of variable shapes and sizes and the aim is to detect larger metal.  Two different coil designs mean that the Metal Detector is suitable for belt widths from 100mm to 1200mm.  This design of Metal Detector identifies and then stops the conveyor belt.  Operators then locate and manually remove the metal contamination.

The second type of Metal Detector surrounds the conveyor belt.  This increases the detection sensitivity and is also needed when there is a deeper burden depth on the conveyor.  There are various coil configurations, such as the QDC, QTA, and TN77, and the selection is based upon each application.

Once the waste has passed through the process of size reduction and separation, Metal Detectors are commonly used to check that metal is not present in the final product.  In some applications, the material will still be conveyed and so previously mentioned designs are used.  However, in applications where the particles are now significantly smaller different designs of Metal Detector are required.

Bunting Metal Separation System Recapture Plastics-0424In plastic recycling plants, Free Fall Metal Detectors such as the quickTRON 03R not only detect but also reject metal contamination.   Gravity free-fall style metal separators are specifically designed to isolate and separate any contaminated material moving in the product flow.  They automatically detect, pick up and reject both ferrous and non-ferrous from the product flow without any interruption to the line process.

As each application can be unique, selecting the optimum Metal Detector for an application is best achieved by conducting a site visit to understand the process and the objective.

Bunting Magnetics is one of the world’s leading suppliers of Magnetic Separators and Metal Detectors which includes the Master Magnets and Metal Detection branded range of equipment.

For further information on metal separation equipment designed for detecting and removing metal from plastic waste and in other recycling applications, please visit our website or contact us on:

Phone: +44 (0) 1442 875081
Email: press@buntingeurope.com
Via the website

Other Plastic Waste & Recycling Articles

Defining Plastics Recyclability

Global Definition of Recyclable Plastic Packaging and Products Released

The global outcry of hostility against plastic products has been gathering momentum since the end of 2017 and, subsequently, politicians and governments have pledged to introduce measures to reduce plastic waste.   However, many of these new policies have been deemed to be popularist and lacking in substance.

plastic-bottles

Many governments, including the European Union, have set recycling targets that have been questioned by the recycling and plastics industries.  The EU has made a pledge to have all plastic packaging recyclable or reusable by 2030, a far more aggressive strategy that the UK Government’s plan for plastic waste reduction.

However, until recently, there has not been a definition to govern the use of the term “recyclable” and so how could any of those targets be quantified?  Due to the public outrage about how plastic waste is damaging our planet, politicians have wanted to be seen to take urgent action, but maybe a more considered approach is needed.  Should the first step be to engage with:

  • Plastic product designers and producers;
  • Companies who will ultimately recycle the products;
  • Businesses that will use the recycled plastic products in the manufacture of new products.

One issue that has often plagued the waste sector is the defining the terminology.  Even the classification of “Waste” differs from country to country.

However, two leading global international plastics recycling organisations have worked together to define the term “recyclable” in terms of plastic products and packaging.  In July 2018, Brussels-based Plastic Recyclers Europe (PRE) and the Association of Plastic Recyclers in Washington, USA have concluded that there are four conditions that define a plastic product as being “recyclable”.  These are:

  1. The product must be made with a plastic that is collected for recycling, has market value and/or is supported by a legislatively mandated program;
  2. The product must be sorted and aggregated into defined streams for recycling processes;
  3. The product can be processed and reclaimed/recycled with commercial recycling processes;
  4. The recycled plastic becomes a raw material that is used in the production of new products;

Technology already exists to help with the sorting of plastic waste into defined streams.  Additionally, there is processing equipment available to remove contamination such as metal (Magnetic Separators, Eddy Current Separators, Metal Detectors) and other contaminants (Optical, X-Ray, Infra-Red).

A recent case history report highlighted how EcoVyn, a PVC compounder in the UK, already processes 1000 tonnes of plastic waste each month of which 80% is post-consumer.

Bunting Magnetics Drawer Magnets at Ecovyn

Such clarity of the definition of whether a plastic product is really “recyclable” can only be beneficial, assisting product designers, users and recyclers.  However, it remains unclear whether the EU, UK and other governments will use this new definition when setting their recycling and plastic waste targets.

For further information on metal separation equipment designed for removing metal from plastic waste and in other recycling applications, please visit our website or contact us on:

Phone: +44 (0) 1442 875081
Email: press@buntingeurope.com
Via the website

Other Plastic Waste & Recycling Articles

EcoVyn Reduce Waste by 94% with Bunting Drawer Magnets

Magnetic Separators Remove Contamination from Plastic Waste

EcoVyn Ltd has installed two Bunting Drawer Filter Magnets to remove ferrous metal contamination from plastic waste.  Since the installation of the magnetic separators, EcoVyn has reduced their waste by 94%.

Bunting Magnetics Drawer Magnets at Ecovyn
Bunting Drawer Filter in situ at EcoVyn

EcoVyn Ltd is at the forefront of PVC compounding and brings pioneering new technology to the market place.  They offer one of the most advanced and innovative production processes in the UK producing reprocessed, blended and virgin compounds for a variety of applications.

EcoVyn first met Bunting at the Interplas international plastics exhibition in September 2017.  The company use a high proportion of plastic waste, of which 80% is post-consumer.  Presently, EcoVyn processes 1000 tonnes per month of good quality reclaimed plastic waste, which they plan to increase to 16,000 tonnes per annum.  The cleansed plastic waste is blended into virgin material, resulting in a 90% output of grade A product.  Waste generated during the manufacturing process is also recycled leaving less than 1% being discarded.

Bunting Magnetics Drawer Magnets at Ecovyn
Granulated plastic waste

However, plastic waste is often highly contaminated with metal.  Metal Detectors were already installed to remove the metal contamination, but the reject rate was very high with over 60 tonnes of waste being generated, of which a high proportion was good quality plastic.

At Interplas, EcoVyn explained the problem to the Bunting team who agreed to conduct a site review.  During the review it was concluded that easily removable magnetically-susceptible metal could be removed, leaving the metal detectors to detect and separate non-ferrous metals.  This would then significantly reduce the number of metal detector rejections and, therefore, the amount of waste generated.

After a review of the process, Drawer Filter Magnets were recommended to be installed between the screw conveyor transporting the 8-10mm sized infeed material and the metal detector.  The metal-cleansed material would then pass onto a pulveriser before continuing through the process.

The Bunting Drawer Filter Magnet is used widely in the plastics industry and enables the simple and effective removal of ferrous metal from free-flowing materials.  The Drawer Filters installed at EcoVyn have two rows of high strength Rare Earth Neodymium Magnets.  The top row has two Tube Magnets with three in the second row aligned to sit below the gap in the top row.  This ensures that all the product strikes at least one of the Tube Magnets, where ferrous metal is attracted by the strong magnetic field and captured.

Bunting Magnetics Drawer Magnets at Ecovyn
Ferrous metal captured on the surface of the Tube Magnets

After the installation of Drawer Filter Magnets, the amount of waste was reduced from 60 tonnes to 4 tonnes.

Since installing the Drawer Filter Magnets, EcoVyn has established that a 20 minutes cleaning frequency is required, highlighting the high level of metal contamination commonly found in plastic waste.  The ferrous metal found captured on the Tube Magnets ranges from small fine ferrous dust to nails, washers, steel sheet shards and electrical capacitors.

Bunting Magnetics Drawer Magnets at Ecovyn
Ferrous metals captured by the Bunting Drawer Grate Magnet including nails, a capacitor, washer, wire and steel sheet shard

Following the installation of the Bunting Drawer Filter Magnets, controlled laboratory tests have been conducted at Bunting’s Master Magnets facility in Birmingham which indicated that 99.9% of all ferrous metals had been removed.

The final plastic product produced by EcoVyn is then used to manufacture products such as pipe, internal windows, beading, picture frames, and shoe soles.

For further information on separating metal from plastics during the production of the virgin product or during the recycling process, please contact the Bunting team on:

Plastics Positivity at Technivation

Polymer Training and Innovation Centre Hosts UK Plastics Sector Professionals

The Technivation conference, hosted by the Polymer Training and Innovation Centre in Telford (18th April 2018), attracted delegates from across the UK plastics sector.

The Polymer Training and Innovation Centre (PITC) provides training for engineers working with plastics and has an extensive range of working equipment including moulding machines, pneumatic conveying systems, and magnetic separators.

Bunting Europe at TechnivationAt Technivation, there were talks from machinery manufacturers and also an industry update from the British Plastics Federation.  BPF Membership Services Director, Stephen Hunt, highlighted a change in the awareness and public perception of plastics since the airing of the BBC Blue Planet II series at the end of 2017.  The BPF have been working hard to clarify misconceptions about plastics, highlighting that plastic is vital in the manufacture of so many products including cars, medical equipment, and IT.  They are presently working closely with the UK Government on the proposed tax for single use plastics, which closes on 18th May 2018.

As Stephen Hunt explained, the plastics sector is the 8th largest exporting industry in the UK with a turnover of £25.5 billion.  The sector is also the 2nd largest employer in the manufacturing industry.  He also highlighted how waste from the USA and European Union combined only contributes 2% to the amount of plastic waste found in our oceans.

Delegates at Technivation had the opportunity to tour the training facility and meet representatives from equipment manufacturers including Summit Systems, Kistler, Arburg, and Staubli.  Tom Higginbottom, Bunting’s Sales Engineer, was demonstrating how to effectively remove metal from the plastics process using a combination of a FF Drawer Filter Magnet and Quicktron Metal Detector.

“At Technivation it was really good to be able to demonstrate how to remove metal and also to show how the equipment is actually installed on a working moulding machine,” explained Tom.  “We supplied the FF Drawer Filter Magnets to PTIC so that the importance of metal removal is included in the training programmes.”

For further information on separating metal from plastics during the production of the virgin product or during the recycling process, please contact the Bunting team on:

Bunting Europe at Technivation

Polymer Training and Innovation Centre Protected by Bunting Drawer Filter Magnet

Magnetic Separator Technology for Plastics Training

The Polymer Training & Innovation Centre in Telford has added a Bunting Magnetics Drawer Filter Magnet to the range of equipment at their plastics manufacturing training facility.  The FF Drawer Filter Magnet attracts and captures any fine and coarse magnetically susceptible materials that enter the plastics manufacturing process.

Bunting FF Grate Magnet
A Bunting Magnetics Europe FF Grate Magnet included in a plastics production line at the Polymer Training and Innovation Centre in Telford

The Polymer Training & Innovation Centre provides polymer training and consultancy, specialising in injection moulding, blow moulding and extrusion training.  They are a technical training and consultancy business that is owned by City of Wolverhampton College.

At their Telford training facility, the Polymer Training & Innovation Centre has working production-sized plastics manufacturing equipment for injection moulding, blow moulding, thermoforming, materials handling, and a wide range of other important ancillary equipment.

Technical Trainer, Andrew Dermody, explained the importance of trainees having practical training on the equipment.

“We have great support from the industry and equipment manufacturers such as Bunting.  This support means that we can deliver practical training, with a hands-on approach, and that is the best way for our delegates to learn.  Having the Drawer Filter Magnet installed exactly as it would be in a production plant, is an ideal way to show our students best-practice and highlight the importance of metal removal.”

Bunting FF Grate Magnet

The training facility at Telford was refurbished in early 2017 and Bunting supplied the FF Drawer Filter Magnet in March 2018.  The FF Grate Magnet is bolted onto the bottom flange of a Summit Systems fed hopper.  The Magnetic Separator has a transparent front plate so that operators are able to see the material passing through or held within the system.  Virgin plastic beads fall from the hopper through two rows of high strength Tube Magnets, which attract and hold any magnetically susceptible materials.  The Tube Magnets use ultra-strong, permanent, Neodymium Rare Earth Magnets.  The cleaned plastic beads are then fed into the Engel injection moulding machine.  Removing all metal contamination ensures that the final plastic product is free from defects and reduces the amount of waste and potential damage to moulding machines.

Bunting FF Grate Magnet

On a regular frequency, dictated by the amount of metal captured, the Tube Magnets are removed as one complete assembly from the housing and cleaned.  The design of the Drawer Filter Magnet means that removal of the Magnet Assembly is quick and easy, keeping maintenance times to a minimum.

“The Bunting design is good as it is very visible,” said Dermody.  “Often Magnetic Separators are placed out of sight in hoppers, which means that they can be forgotten.  In this installation, the Drawer Filter Magnet is right in front of the machine operator and the clear front allows easy visual checking of the magnets.”

Bunting also supplied Drawer Filter Magnets for use in the classroom and the Polymer Training & Innovation Centre plan to incorporate ‘metal separation’ as one of the course topics.

The Drawer Grate Magnet is widely regarded as standard for the plastics industry and Bunting has supplied thousands to plastics manufacturing operations globally.

“It is great that delegates are able to see, in practice, the importance of having good Magnetic Separation equipment in the plastics process,” said Tom Higginbottom, Bunting’s Sales Engineer.  “Even with virgin raw materials, there is always a small amount of fine ferrous metal contamination and there is always the risk of larger tramp iron that could seriously damage the injection moulding machine.”

On the 18th April 2018, the Polymer Training & Innovation Centre is staging the Technivation event at their recently upgraded training facility in Telford.  During the day there will be a series of short technical presentations, the opportunity to experience their Polymer on-line simulation software, and the chance to meet and talk with primary and secondary equipment suppliers including Bunting Magnetics.  Visitors will be able to learn more about Polymer Apprenticeship’s and Funding and discuss their organisations own training requirements.

For further information on separating metal from plastics during the production of the virgin product or during the recycling process, please contact the Bunting team on:

Bunting FF Grate Magnet
A Bunting Magnetics Europe FF Grate Magnet included in a plastics production line at the Polymer Training and Innovation Centre in Telford

New UK Drinks Container Recycling Strategy Creates ‘Bottleneck’

UK Waste Plan Means More Recycling Plants

The UK Government’s announcement that people in England will soon have to pay a deposit when they buy drinks bottles and metal cans [28th March 2018] in an attempt to curb waste is expected to create a ‘bottleneck’ in the recycling chain.  Scotland has previously announced plans for a deposit return scheme and Wales has launched a study to consider it.

drinking-water-filter-singapore-1235578_960_720Other countries, including Sweden and Germany, already operate schemes where people pay a deposit when purchasing some drinking containers.

This latest announcement may be considered as a knee-jerk reaction to the global dismay about plastic waste following the airing of the Blue Planet II series.   Environment Secretary Michael Gove said there was no doubt that plastic was “wreaking havoc” on the marine environment and discarded plastic bottles and cans “end up dumped on pavements and lobbed into rivers, lakes and the sea”.

Although most people agree with the sentiment of the new policy, there are serious concerns about the UK’s ability to handle the increase in the amount of plastic waste.  The UK Government has not outlined how the recovered plastics will be recycled and how it will work financially.

Already, since China banned plastic waste imports [January 2018] there have been concerns about how the UK will manage plastic waste, especially as 2.7 million tonnes was shipped to China since 2012.  This new policy will potentially reduce the amount of plastic going to landfill, but also add to the amount of plastic waste that was previously shipped to China.  That equates to a lot of plastic waste.

Are There Enough Plastic Recycling Plants?

An increase in recovered plastic waste means that there needs to be a significant growth in the number of specialist recycling plants.  However, profitably operating a plastics recycling plant has proven to be difficult, with many plants being commissioned and then closed or sold within a very short space of time.

Bunting Metal Separation System Recapture Plastics
Metal Separation Module in a Plastics Recycling Plant in Kent

Bunting Vulcanis-1098

There has been an established network for the collection and successful recycling of steel and aluminium beverage cans for decades.  Part of the reason for the success is that both materials are easily recyclable, using a combination of Magnetic Separators and Eddy Current Separators, and converted into new steel and aluminium.  Presently, the same cannot be said for plastic.

The UK Government may decide to commit all the collected deposits to expanding and funding a network of specialist recycling plants, although where this money will go is is presently unclear.  It will be interesting to hear if there are plans to invest in the development of technology to enable successfully and financially viable mixed plastic recycling.  Also, will product designers now be forced to consider the recyclability of a product rather than the aesthetic appearance?

Certainly, a holistic plan is needed before this new initiative is put in place.

For further information on separating metal from plastics during the production of the virgin product or during the recycling process, please contact the Bunting team on:

Other relevant waste and recycling articles:

 

Is Recycling in UK Reaching Crisis Point?

Troubled Times for the UK and European Recycling Sectors

There appears to be a distinct disconnect between the political rhetoric and what is actually happening in the waste and recycling sector.  In the UK, Theresa May has pledged to eliminate plastic waste by 2042 and the European government has ‘declared war’ on plastic waste setting a target of having all packaging reusable or recyclable by 2030.

China WasteHowever, it has been reported [BBC News 1st March 2018] that waste recycling rates in the UK are falling for over 14 million households.  Also, China’s import restrictions on waste materials has put tremendous pressure on the recycling sector and it is anticipated that UK firms are likely to close [MRW].

The global problem of Plastic Waste has been at the top of the media agenda since the BBC’s Blue Plant II showed how it is contaminating our world and endangering our wildlife.  The noise from environmental activists and the general population has been deafening.

Surfer and Plastic WastePoliticians had to respond and announced targets for dealing with plastic waste.  However, the announcements do not include details about how these tough targets are going to be met.

In the UK, we presently recycle 29% of our plastic, although this figure is presently under debate [Industry ‘exaggerates plastics recycling success’ – BBC News 6th March 2018].  The target for 2020 is 57% and 0% by 2042.  The present recycling rate is low due to the complexity of the process and economics.  Magnetic SeparatorsEddy Current Separators and Metal Detectors remove metal and there is other technology to sort by colour and plastic type.  However, producing a useful plastic from waste that can be introduced as a raw material into primary plastic production (such as happens with aluminium and steel) is presently exceptionally difficult.  Contamination at the collection source, during transportation, and during process is one of many problems.  Until those issue are addressed, plastic waste will continue to pose a problem.

Bunting Overband Magnet over Conveyor 2

The solution has been shipping mixed waste materials to China and other countries for manual separation.  This is no longer an option, at least in China.

A cohesive plan of action is required, with the setting of realistic targets reflecting the technology and economics of waste recycling.  At present, it appears that politicians are just making statements to appease the masses.

For further information on separating metal from plastics during the production of the virgin product or during the recycling process, please contact the Bunting team on:

Other relevant waste and recycling articles:

Contamination Hinders Plastic Recycling

Metal Contamination is Another Problem Facing Plastic Recycling Companies

The environmental impact of poorly managing plastic waste has been in the headlines since the BBC’s Blue Planet II series was aired at the end of 2017.  In January, Theresa May made a pledge to eliminate the UK’s plastic waste by 2042, although the detail of the plan has yet to be unveiled.  Less than a week later and the EU ‘declared war on plastic waste’, announcing the intention to ensure that every piece of packaging on the continent is reusable or recyclable by 2030.

plastic-trash-in-oceans-and-waterways

Presently, there is an unprecedented negative feeling towards plastics.  However, plastic is and will continue to be one of the most versatile and useful materials available.  This versatility is down to the wide range of plastic types, as can be seen in any household.  Plastic is present in food packaging, mobile phone casings, tables, chairs, DVDs, televisions, and many other everyday items that would not exist unless made of plastic.

Certainly, product designers need to give recyclability a higher priority and this change in attitude is required for all materials and not just for plastics.  At present, plastic is the environmental villain.

Effectively managing plastic waste is not a new problem for the UK.  With the introduction of Material Reclamation Facilities (MRFs) in the 1990s, there was an abundance of segregated materials, including plastics, for which there was no end market.  These were stored or exported overseas, and there were reports of warehouses in Germany stocked full of unrecyclable waste materials.

This resulted in changes in the EU definition of ‘waste’ that prevented the easy movement of secondary materials within Europe, but this did not address the main problem.  The market for materials such as secondary plastics did not exist.  Advances have been made and there are products being made out of recycled waste plastics (e.g. furniture) and even plastic roads.

Technology has advanced, but the main problems remain.  Complex recycling plants are now able to separate different types of plastic by colour and type, but the process is not perfect.  To further complicate the problem, other non-related materials, such as metal and even building materials (e.g. concrete and bricks), contaminate the vast majority of waste plastic packaging.

Contaminated Pre-Sorted Waste

Most plastic packaging enters the recycling process as pre-sorted household waste.  The specification of what materials are mixed in a single recycling bag depends on the recycling strategy of the local council and varies considerably across the UK and Europe.

Recycled UK Bunting Magnetic Separators-3On arrival at a MRF, the collected materials are then separated into metal, plastic, cardboard, and any other materials defined within the local strategy.  Separation of these materials is achieved using either technology or, more commonly, a combination of separation equipment and human pickers.  This is a dirty, difficult, and unpopular environment in which to work.

The ability to successfully separate the materials is compromised by the presence of other waste.  These materials have been incorrectly added to recycling bags at the household or during collection and include used-nappies, food waste, paint tins, and other problematic materials.

At the MRF, metal packaging (e.g. steel and aluminium beverage and food cans) is commonly recovered using Overband Magnets positioned over the main feed conveyor prior to the picking line.  Other materials are manually handpicked and stored separately.  Up until recently, the mix of plastic packaging could then be sent to a specialist UK plastic recycling plant or overseas to countries such as China.

Contaminated Plastic Waste

Since 2012, British companies have shipped more than 2.7m tonnes of plastic scrap to mainland China and Hong Kong.  However, this only accounts for two-thirds of all the plastic waste exported from the UK.

Plastic waste sent to China is, where possible, commonly hand-sorted into individual plastic types (i.e. removing plastic tops by hand), with all other added contamination removed manually.  This involves a huge, low-paid workforce.  Similar manually based recycling operations in Europe would be prohibitively costly with unacceptable working conditions.

In December 2017, China announced that in early 2018 it will stop importing “foreign garbage” stating that such waste materials was commonly contaminated with “large amounts of dirty waste or even hazardous wastes”.

Specialist plastic packaging recycling plants in the UK have been under intense financial pressure for many years.  There have been calls for better legislation and Government support, but too many plastic recycling plants open and are then forced to close due to being financial unviable.

A typical plastic recycling operation needs a complex system of separation equipment.  The plant also needs to be able to adapt to huge variations in the nature of the delivered waste plastic.  There are also strict environmental regulations on storing and handling waste plastic.  Such plants are expensive to install and operate.

Hanbury Plastics Bunting Overband Magnet-1

Early in the process, ferrous and non-ferrous metal contamination is removed from the waste plastic using Magnetic Separators and Eddy Current Separators.  Initially, after the plastic is released from the compacted bale, the waste is fed into a primary shredder.  To protect the shredder from damage, an Overband Magnet is suspended across the feed conveyor and removes large ferrous metal.

At this stage, the type of ferrous metal contamination found in the plastic is diverse and often surprising.  It can include metal packaging miss-sorted at the MRF, heavy lumps of iron that increase the weight of the plastic bale, and metal picked up during transportation.  There have even been reports of car engine blocks.  Reasonably sized items of cast iron entering the shredder will cause significant and costly damage and result in the plant being closed until a repair is possible.

After the primary shredder, the waste plastic has been reduced in size and many contaminants liberated.  This shredded waste plastic is fed onto another Magnetic Separator, commonly a Drum Magnet or Pulley Magnet, to remove liberated smaller ferrous metals.

Metal Found in Plastic Recycling Bunting Magnetics-3The type of ferrous metal separated at this stage includes steel spanners, nuts, bolts, screws, fine metal wires, springs, iron shards, fine ferrous dust, and chunks of stainless steel.  Most of the ferrous metal was not part of the original plastic packaging and has been introduced between disposal and processing.

The cleansed plastic waste then passes over an Eddy Current Separator to remove non-ferrous metals.  Commonly separated metals include aluminium beverage cans, foils, tubes, and even window frames.

After the metal contamination has been removed, the plastic waste moves to the next stage in the plant, which could be further separation of contamination or sorting by colour or plastic type.

The high level of metal contamination highlights the challenges facing waste plastic processors.  It was one of many contaminants, not present in the original plastic packaging, that have to be removed.

Before UK and EU Government officials make recycling pledges to pacify environmentalists, they need to consider the practicalities and difficulties faced when processing waste plastic packaging.  Contamination will always be present, and is one of the reasons for exporting this difficult waste material overseas.  Reducing such contamination will make it easier to recycle waste plastic, but there is no clear strategy to achieve this goal at present.

For further information on Bunting Magnetics and Master Magnets and our range of metal separation equipment designed for the waste and recycling sector, please visit our website or contact us on:

Phone: +44 (0) 1442 875081
Email: press@buntingeurope.com
Via the website

This article was first published by EPPM Magazine (European Plastic Product Manufacturer) in February 2018.