Finding a sustainable way to shape a zero-waste economy is essential to keeping the world’s consumption within its planetary boundaries, especially for versatile and widespread materials like plastics.
An EU-funded project launched in September in Ghent has started working on a solution aimed at tackling at least part of the problem.
REPurpose, an 11-member project coordinated by Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant VZW in Belgium, is exploring the feasibility of recycling PET into new thermoplastic elastomers, said project partner Aimplas in a statement 2 Jan. The project, in which four universities and research centres, two non-profit organisations, and five SMEs are collaborating, has received a total of €6.5 million in funding.
REPurpose aims to develop and validate the production of a platform of Safe-and-Sustainable-by-Design, additive-free thermoplastic elastomer prototypes to establish the circular value chain in an enabling environment.
To that end, new building blocks derived from the enzymatic conversion of local post-consumer waste streams, including enzymatically degraded polyolefins, PET, paper and cardboard waste, complemented with biobased building blocks will be incorporated (‘repurposing of waste’). These building blocks will be polymerised into ‘REP’ polymers with tuneable functional properties for high-value speciality applications - consumer goods, automotive applications, building & construction - with intrinsic biodegradability and recyclability properties.
REP products are intended to be reusable or repairable via controlled disassembly through ‘Design for Deconstruction’, endlessly recyclable and even controlled biodegradable.
Relevant stakeholders and dedicated user groups, including global consumer goods producers, will test the polymers Aimplas said it is leading Work Package 2 on Safety and Sustainability by Design, which includes, amongst others, an inventory of plastic additives, regulation and standardisation, and a good practice guide. The Spanish centre is also in charge of synthesising small-scale polymers that will be scaled up by the company B4P; the chemical recycling of PET, recyclability and biodegradability tests and the realisation of demonstrators together with Denmark’s Aalborg University.
In line with the EU’s ambition to create a single, borderless market for research, innovation and technology across the EU - the so-called European Research Area - in which inclusiveness is a priority, the REPurpose project includes a Hop On Facility programme which will allow legal entities from low R&I performing countries to participate in already selected collaborative projects.