As a complementary process to mechanical recycling, chemical recycling looks to be a technology with considerable potential. Chemical recycling can take up where mechanical recycling leaves off, namely the recycling of multi-layer, multi-material packaging structures.
For Südpack, a manufacturer of high-tech films and packaging materials, chemical recycling offers a solution for processing the complex laminated films it produces for the packaging industry, while enabling their reuse in new, circular packaging.
The company has joined forces with Recenso, an industrial plant engineering company with expertise in recycling and energy solutions that has developed a process for industrial use that converts mixed plastic fractions into a liquid and universally usable hydrocarbon mixture. This can then be reused by the chemical industry as raw material for producing plastics of the highest quality.
Called the CTC process (Catalytic Tribochemical Conversion), it is a single-step catalytic liquefaction process. The combination of thermal, catalytic and physical forces for cracking hydrocarbon makes CTC highly efficient. The solid input material is continuously fed to the hot liquid system enriched with a catalyst. Tri- bo-Chemical Reactors (TCR) mix the slurry and heat it up. Any material evaporating is collected. Any liquid or solid material recirculates, while residuals are taken out by special conveyors after collected in a sedimentation system. The condensates are dewatered, cooled and collected, and the produced oil can either be used as a secondary raw material in chemical/petrochemical industry.
Recenso has designed and built an industrial-scale pilot plant was created at the waste management centre in Ennigerloh. The new partnership between Südpack and Recenso will convert production-related reusable materials into high-quality pyrolysis oil on an industrial scale.
The pyrolysis oil yielded by the process will be supplied to the plastics industry as raw material for producing virgin-grade resins, suitable for use in food-contact and medical applications.
For Südpck, the investment represents an initial pioneering step towards making a significant contribution to a functioning circular economy in the plastic packaging industry, said Dirk Hardow, who is responsible for the collaborative project at Südpack.
“Chemical recycling makes it possible to meet the ambitious recycling rates of the EU strategy for plastics and of the German Packaging Act – and allows us to support our customers in meeting current and future market needs,” he said.
Plastic products based on chemically recycled material are themselves recyclable at the end of life. The more often the cycle is repeated, the more CO2 is saved. Chemical recycling can significantly contribute to closing loops and reducing greenhouse gases in the packaging industry.