Economics remains the barrier to plastic recycling for ELVs

Work by the University of Brighton has confirmed that plastic HDPE bottles found in the domestic waste stream can be made into “high quality” products for the automotive industry.

A research report by a University team says: “Mechanical recycling of post-consumer HDPE for use in a high-quality product, one that has very precise specifications, shows that there is more value in collecting and recycling this polymer resin in the future.”

But the news was met with caution from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Steve Franklin, the SMMT’s recycling manager and manager of ACCORD, said: “In order to meet the end of life vehicles directive’s requirements we would be looking to recycle plastics from cars as much as anything else.”

The idea of re-using waste plastic derived from cars is also backed by the research. It says polyolefin plastics from shredder residue can be made into “high end” parts for the automotive industry.

Doctor Richard Hooper, who headed the research, said between 30% and 40% of the 500,000 tonnes of shredder residue created every year could be used in the automotive industry in products such as water bottles and jerry cans.

He acknowledged that the cost of using plastics recyclate was a barrier. “The potential is there but it comes down to economics,” he said.

For the HDPE research the University took milk cartons from Viridor Waste Management’s MRF is Suffolk. They were granulated, washed in water and then dried in an oven. The material was then blow-moulded into small bottle shapes which were “as good (if not better than)” the quality of equivalent bottles made from virgin material.

For the shredder research, plastic fragments were hand picked from a pile of shredder fluff. The material was tested through a sink/float experiment, where the plastic floats on the water and residues sink. It was then washed, dried and moulded.

For a full set of the reports, see the latest developments section of the CARE website.


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