According to estimates by the European Tyre and Rubber Manufacturers Association (ETRMA), up to four million tonnes of end-of-life tyres are generated each year in Europe and Spain alone accounts for 300,000 tonnes. Most of the polyurethane foam from the automotive industry, mattresses and similar products is landfilled, not to mention other difficult-to-recycle plastic waste such as wire waste. According to Plastics Europe, more than 6.5 million tonnes of plastic are sent to landfills each year.
AIMPLAS, the Plastics Technology Centre, is now working on the NEOREC Project, which is funded by the Valencian Innovation Agency (AVI) and ERDF, with the aim of reducing current limitations on recycling this complex waste.
As part of this initiative, AIMPLAS is developing advanced chemical and mechanical recycling solutions to prevent this complex waste (end-of-life tyres, old mattresses and wire waste) being sent to landfills by using it to obtain industrial materials and substances.
Use of microorganisms
The chemical recycling processes being studied include anaerobic degradation. The aim is to isolate and select microorganisms that anaerobically biodegrade biopolymers faster than conventional organisms, which will help establish a more efficient recycling process.
Work is also being done to use partial chain-breaking processes to obtain plastics with the same initial specifications. According to Eva Verdejo, Chemical Recycling Group Leader and researcher, the goals is “to reduce the consumption of resources by reintroducing high value-added materials back into the value chain and generating products and by-products that can be used in the plastics industry, thus minimizing the environmental impact of waste accumulation”.
In order to provide broad coverage of the entire plastics industry, AIMPLAS is collaborating on this project with raw material manufacturers, converters, waste managers and recyclers, including Girsa, Acteco, Ube, Omar Coatings, Permarsa, Eslava Plásticos and PET & Cia.
The NEOREC Project is funded by the Sustainable Economy, Production Sectors, Trade and Employment of the Valencian Community through IVACE funds and co-funded by ERDF within the Operational Programme of the Valencian Community 2014-2020. These grants are targeted at technology centres in the Valencia Region for the development of non-economic R&D projects carried out in cooperation with companies for financial year 2021.