Heathland recycles high-quality PMMA plastics

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To realise a new and comprehensive PMMA recycling value chain in Europe, Heathland aims to develop a process to turn PMMA waste into a quality end product. For the analysis and implementation of the first phase, Heathland chose Lybover Recycling. Its years of experience with various recycling processes in a wide variety of sectors makes all the difference.

Dutch-based Heathland is a collector and processor of post-production plastic waste. The focus is mainly on PMMA (PolyMethylMethAcrylate) plastic. Most of the waste comes from Europe. Heathland collects the waste and then proceeds to sort and mechanically or chemically recycle it into raw materials for various types of acrylic products. The processing centres are located in the Netherlands and Poland. Heathland decided to start processing the production waste itself now that China has stopped accepting certain wastes since 2018. Today, Heathland is increasingly focusing on the post consumer PMMA waste stream. These are already used plastic materials, as opposed to the virgin (post-production) waste stream which consists of production waste.

Great recycling potential
In total, we produce 300,000 tonnes of PMMA waste in Europe every year. Until recently, all that waste was sent to the incinerator, as current recycling techniques and processes in Europe are not suitable for recycling end-of-life PMMA. However, PMMA is very recyclable, even better than other plastics. The properties of the recycled PMMA material are as qualitative as the raw material that would otherwise be used for a new product. The loss to recycle this waste is only 10 to 15%, so if one processes 100 kg, 85 to 90 kg are left to be reused as raw material.

MMAtwo: international and innovative research project
Since October 2018, Heathland has been initiator and coordinator of the MMAtwo project. This project fits into the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme for research and innovation. It is an innovative project developing a new process for recycling post-industrial, end-of-life and discarded PMMA waste. A total of 13 partners from six countries are participating. PMMA, or Polymethylmethacrylate is a transparent thermoplastic plastic better known by the trade names Perspex, Plexiglas, Altuglas and Oroglas, as well as acrylate for short. In full corona, this Plexiglas is widely used for screens of all kinds. But PMMA has many applications including car lights, illuminated advertising, sound walls, roof domes, balustrades, shop fittings, bus windows, insulated refrigeration doors in department stores, etc.

From collection to processing
It is estimated that only 30,000 tonnes of PMMA waste are currently collected for recycling annually in Europe, or only about 10% of annual production. This requires alerting the industry to bring in the discarded PMMA waste instead of sending it to the incinerator. The MMAtwo process consists of two stages. In the first stage, the PMMA post-consumer waste is pre-treated (= pre-treatment) to be further processed with a chemical process (depolymerisation). The pre-treatment of the material is a necessary and important step in the process. If the waste is not sufficiently pure and stable, the chemical process will not work either. In other words, the entire project stands or falls with the pre-treatment of the plastic waste.

Different techniques in pre-treatment phase
Pre-treatment of the waste consists of two lines, namely a clean (post-production) and a dirty (post-consumer) line. The dirty line contains more other materials, such as dust, films and paper, while the clean line mainly contains different types of plastic.

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Lybover Recycling (BULK .ID)

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