EREMA technology could hold the key to meeting the soft plastics challenge.
Recycling of soft plastics has been thrust into the spotlight since the collapse of national collection service REDcycle in November 2022. The failure has highlighted the disconnect between Australia’s ambitious reuse targets, to have 70 per cent of plastic packaging recycled or composted and an average of 50 per cent recycled content included in packaging by 2025, and the infrastructure available to handle plastic recycling at scale.
Industry says there’s been too much focus on the collection side of soft plastics, and not enough on manufacturing. Eric Paulsen, CEMAC Managing Director, says pelletising and extrusion are key technologies to give plastic waste new value and set a sustainable pathway to a circular economy. “If Australia wants to increase the recycled content in manufacturing, we have to generate a quality pellet that can be reused,” Eric says. “Plastics need to be processed with a view to their future use. Anyone can melt a product, but if the quality is poor, it can’t be added back into the manufacturing process.”
A push from more brands to increase recycled content in their product packaging will, says Eric, drive onshore demand for plastics that can be recycled mechanically. He says technologies that deliver consistent and reliable outcomes will play an important role in a sustainable local remanufacturing industry.
That’s where EREMA comes in. EREMA recycling technology can process post-consumer and post-industrial plastics including LDPE washed flakes, agriculture film, PE film, pallet wrap, printed metallised films and polyolefins.
Among many other projects, EREMA has worked with Spanish recycling company Anviplas, to improve recycling processes for complex multilayer materials. Anviplas recycles post-industrial and post-consumer plastic waste, mainly HD and LD-PE, as well as PP, to make recycled pellets in all colour variations.
Its customers manufacture a variety of products using its recycled pellets including film products – such as stretch, shrink, mulch and silage films – to irrigation, corrugated and high-pressure pipes, as well as containers such as tubs, bottles, barrels, and crates. Eric says all these applications require recycled pellets that meet high specifications.
Anviplas operates an EREMA type INTAREMA 1716 TVEplus recycling machine with screen changer for processing PP material. The patented extruder system was developed for difficult-to-process materials, such as heavily printed films, as well as materials with high moisture content.
Eric says ultrafine filtration, melt homogenisation and degassing are performed in a single step. “The melt filtration takes place upstream of the extruder degassing. As a result, end products can be produced with the highest possible recyclate content.”
The machine features triple degassing with the preconditioning unit, screw design and extruder degassing, ensuring there are no residual contaminants in the materials that could reduce the quality of the end-product. Initial degassing in the preconditioning unit takes place through preheating and pre-drying the material. The screw design – tuned to the material being processed – enables reverse degassing in the preconditioning unit, and gas inclusions in the melt are removed in the extruder degassing zone.
“Only melted, filtered and homogenised material can pass the degassing zone of the extruder,” Eric says.
The machine also offers a higher output rate with the same screw diameter compared to conventional degassing extruders. EREMA is well established in the recycling industry. It started in 1983 developing equipment to recycle plastic waste and has grown into a global leader in the supply of plastics recycling machines. Its ethos is to continue to research new technologies to conserve resources and close loops.
The company’s latest recycling innovation, the INTAREMA TVEplus DuaFil Compact system, has been shortlisted for this year´s Recycling Awards Europe in the Recycling Machinery Innovation of the Year category.
Eric says the double-filtration machine is also suitable for recycling stretch and shrink LDPE/LLDPE film from packaged pellets contaminated with labels. It combines TVEplus technology with a new patent-pending DualFil Compact design, that handles the melt gently throughout the process.
“The melt pump takes over the necessary pressure build-up for the second filtration unit, so the extruder no longer needs to do that,” he says. “This reduces the residence time, the melt temperature and the energy consumption and results in better quality of melt and the recycled pellets. “The machine is the first choice for many challenging materials, especially when the application requires polymer conserving processing as well as strong filtration.”
This article was published in Waste Management Review May 2023 edition.