The year 2021 was one of achievement for APK AG - a ‘milestone year’, said Klaus Wohnig, CEO of APK AG. “We were able to prove that our Newcycling-technology can successfully recycle household plastic waste, and do so on an industrial scale,” he said. “We were able to fully achieve the ambitious goals we had set for scaling and decolourisation.”
APK has demonstrated proof of concept of its Newcycling technology - a physical, solvent-based process enabling the selective separation of polymers in mixed plastic waste. During a multi-stage process, the liquid and solid components are separated, the polymer purified and the solvent recovered for reuse in the process.
Over the course of 2021, APK carried out a phased implementation strategy in order ultimately to arrive at industrial-scale production at its Merseburg recycling plant. The input material used for this ‘post-consumer Newcycling campaign’ was film packaging sourced from household waste. During the first phase the results obtained in terms of problem-free processing, yield and mechanical values of the recyclate were excellent. By refining the process parameters in an intermediate laboratory phase, the decolourisation results could also be boosted.
The development team, led by Hagen Hanel, head of APK’s Plastics Recycling Innovation Centre, successfully implemented these modified parameters in November 2021, in the second phase of the campaign.
“Our hard work has paid off in full,” said Jürgen Flesch, APK board member who oversees production and technology. “We were able to obtain a light-coloured LDPE-recyclate from mixed, flexible household waste, which was then processed into a film.”
Analysis of the film material revealed outstanding colour and transparency values, with an L value close to that of films produced from virgin plastics.
These quality aspects are becoming increasingly important as recycled plastics start to find their way into plastic packaging and demand for these material rises. Proof of concept shows the feasibility of the Newcycling technology and its potential for industrial roll-out.
“Proof of concept is an important step on our pathway to building new Newcycling plants,” confirmed Maik Pusch, Director of Corporate Development at APK AG.
APK will now move forward with its expansion and, together with initial partners in the plastics value chain, expects to be able to set up several new plants over the coming years.
APK was founded in 2008, with the aim of producing the purest possible plastic recyclates from plastic waste offering near-virgin properties. Its Newcycling process is an efficient recycling technology that combines mechanical and solvent-based processes. At present, APK employs a staff of around 150 employees at its Merseburg (Germany) location. The production plant currently has a recycling capacity of up to 20,000 tonnes per year. APK markets its recyclates under the names Mersalen and Mersamid.