GAIKER-IK4 leads European Filmsort project to enhance recycling of plastic film and bags

When published: 31/01/13 | Category: Research | Subjects: #Environment
 Recycling machine

Gaiker-IK4 is leading the European Filmsort project to develop a new machine in order to enhance the final quality of the plastic obtained from recycling film and bags, thus enabling reducing financial costs and the environmental impact of the current process.

The material of which plastic film and bags is made has been undergoing changes in recent years and many retail outlets and shopping centres have been gradually substituting the shopping bags provided to customers. Traditionally made of polyethylene (PE) – a resistant and recyclable material, but not biodegradable – has now been made oxo-biodegradable (while being PE, it now has an additive to facilitate more rapid degradation) or biodegradable (normally made of starch or polylactic acid). Amongst the reasons for the change is the commitment, in those applications wherever possible, to use bags which are more environmentally-friendly so as to avoid jettisoning them into the natural environment with no possibility of recycling any part of those 238 plastic bags which each one of us uses on average every year.

Nevertheless, amongst the consequences of such a change are the difficulties the new mixture of materials pose for recycling this waste. It is in this context that the European Filmsort project has arisen: research led by GAIKER-IK4 Technological Centre (expert in R+D+i in Plastics and Composites and in Environment and Recycling) and developed in collaboration with the Spanish plastics recovery company, CORDOPLAS, and the German RTT-Steinert, which manufactures equipment for recycling plants.

Initiated in September 2012 and to last for 36 months, the project aims to develop new FSM (Film-Sorting Machine) equipment, enabling the identification and classification of plastic waste of different kinds. With a budget of 658,000 euros the FILMSORT (Eco/11/304458) project is within the remit of the Eco-Innovation initiative for product, processes and services to reduce environmental impact, prevent contamination and enable the better use of resources. This initiative is part of the Framework Programme for competitiveness and innovation (CIP) of the European Commission, aimed at helping to penetrate the market with novel and environmentally-friendly technologies and which are fundamentally aimed at small and medium-sized businesses (PYMEs in the Spanish acronym).

The design and the subsequent manufacture and marketing of the FSM will enable increasing the quality of the recovered plastics, a quality that has currently decreased due to mixing in the recycling process for bags, wrappings, packaging and film manufactured from various materials. In fact, thanks to the combination of the knowledge and the experience of the three partners involved in the research, not only will it be possible to improve the quality of the granules from the recycling of post-consumption film (thereby reducing the consumption of virgin material by 40%), but also it is believed that CO2 emissions can be reduced by 10%, the consumption of energy by 8%, and the quantity of water required by 10% compared to its use in the current process.

According to calculations from the research, the direct market for the technology developed at the project end (in 2015) will involve 250 recycling plants in Europe. These plants, fundamentally PYMEs, managed between 1.6 and 2.0 million tons of film waste in 2010.

English translation by: WORDLAN wordlan2012@gmail.com; 615740862.

Additional information

  • Recycling machine, Gaiker-IK4
Ana  Erostarbe

Author: Ana Erostarbe (GAIKER-ik4)