Circular economy: plastics recycling and filtering of highly-contaminated post-consumer materials
In the circular economy, plastics recycling plays a key role and filtering of highly-contaminated post-consumer plastics materials becomes a strategic solution in any plastics production backdrop.
Industrial manufacturers worldwide are considering switching from traditional linear economy to circular economy.
PLASTICS IS ESSENTIAL TO CIRCULAR ECONOMY
In the circular economy, products are reused and reclaimed to zero unnecessary consumption, to avoid waste, to minimize climate change and to reduce food waste. In such a backdrop, the economic model applied in the plastics industry proves to be essential.
Plastics industry manufactures key components for several innovative sectors aiming at resource saving. Just think about insulation panels from the construction sector, wind blades, food packaging solutions and ultralight vehicles, just to mention a few. Nevertheless, despite being structurally connected with innovation, it is hard to link plastics and sustainability; today, when we think of plastics, we often associate it with waste disposal issues and ocean pollution.
CONSIDERING PLASTICS PRODUCT LIFE CYCLE
Why, in our overall perception, plastic is not considered key element of the circular economy and innovation? Because we often do not consider the overall framework, i.e. we do not assess the whole life cycle of a plastic product.
Unavoidably, any material production results in resource consumption and impact on environment. Plastic is no exception in this regard; nevertheless, plastics production today offers several benefits which prove to be essential to energy balance and overall economy, and it is one of the fundamental basis of circular economy development.
Let’s consider insulating panels intended for construction. For sure, the production of insulating components and final panels require energy and resources. Nevertheless, later in its life, a well-insulated building may save up to 250 times the energy required to produce the insulating material. Therefore, this plastics application, despite limited initial energy and resource consumption, generates huge energy saving, substantial cost reduction and lower environmental impact over time.
In this respect, an efficient use of resources in plastics production is possible only if the whole product life cycle is considered; to reach a good level of efficiency context-aware decisions must be taken, showing respect for the environment at each production stage.
For example, if we consider the production of raw materials for food packaging, plastics manufacturers are currently looking for alternative materials, such as plastics waste, renewable material scraps, and even CO2 – an additional example of how new plastics can generate huge energy saving and cost savings as well environmental impact reduction.
Last, but not least, within the framework of plastics production, applied research outcomes and innovation help to achieve further optimization of processes, resources, and energy efficiency.
PLASTIC PRODUCTS OFFER SIGNIFICANT RESOURCE SAVING
In many other cases, plastic products offer significant resource saving during their life cycle.
For example, innovative food packaging used to preserve meat at supermarkets can extend food shelf life by more than 10 days, thus reducing food waste. If food is preserved for longer, energy used to produce it can be optimized and valued over time as well.
Similarly, vehicle component parts made from plastics reduce vehicle weight, thus minimizing fuel consumption and, consequently, reducing pollution.
Once used, almost any plastics products can be reused or fixed; plastics applications are less and less disposable and are increasingly designed to be recycled. Nonetheless, everything gets to an end, sooner or later. In other words, it means it is time for recycling. It may happen that recycling is objectively very difficult and requires a huge amount of energy and water. As an alternative, the energy residing in plastics can be used for disposal and recycling.
In brief: to implement the circular economy model it is necessary to rely upon a well-rounded way of thinking, considering the whole product life cycle, using resources responsibly, besides creating the products the circular economy itself needs.
CONSIDERING RECYCLING POST-CONSUMER PLASTICS
In plastics production framework, to implement the circular economy model means to pay the greatest attention to recycling technologies and to consider recycling post-consumer materials.
As a standard, extrusion lines for plastic processing are designed and manufactured to produce the cleanest plastic possible. In order to achieve the above, the best solution is to start a recycled plastics extrusion filter system.
Anyone designing and implementing plastics filtering systems should not just think about technology issues. Today, a strategic vision is essential, and must be supported by production organization and focus on economic and budgetary aspects, in compliance with the implemented circular economy.
FILTERING HIGHLY-CONTAMINATED MATERIALS
The production of clean plastics from highly-contaminated post-consumer materials has proved to be one of the key aspects of developing post-consumer plastics recycling. In order to obtain clean plastics from highly-contaminated materials through an extrusion process while keeping the process cost effective, it is necessary to rely upon top-quality filtering. To this regard, automatic continuous screen filters for plastics extrusion are essential and strategic components.
It is possible to start from the most diverse recycled materials and the filtering method depends on contamination grade – e.g. both recycled post-industrial and post-consumer plastics can be used. Today, post-consumer plastics is abundantly available – indeed it is the least expensive – but it is the most difficult to be filtered.
THE RIGHT SCREEN FILTER DEPENDS ON YOUR GOALS
In any case, if you decide to filter recycled material along your extrusion line, you cannot do without an automatic and continuous screen filter. And if you decide to use the less expensive recycled raw material – e.g. post-consumer materials – you need the most powerful and advanced screen filter. If you plan your extrusion line to operate 24/7 to produce cutting-edge continuous applications (e. g. film), then you’d better think about a high-tech automatic and continuous screen filter.
Specifically, please find below how automatic and continuous screen changers may enhance your recycled plastics extrusion line and how to improve production rates in recycling plastics with a correct filtration.
As you see, small choices which seem to be just a matter of technology, such as the right screen filter for a post-consumer plastics extrusion system, may actually become decisive and qualifying if in a backdrop made of context-aware and forward-looking choices. In other words, the basis of the circular economy model.
Today, Cofit is at the forefront of manufacturing automatic and continuous screen filters for plastics recycling, in support of circular economy – Gorillabelt T is the lowest energy solution on the market and offers zero melt waste.
Cofit deals with research, engineering, manufacturing and distributing automatic and continuous screen changers for post-consumer and post-industrial recycling materials.
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