If we got a dollar every time we heard the sentence: “We’re interested in products that are based on recycled material and promote the circular economy and sustainability”, our sales turnover would definitely rise significantly. This is an increasingly recurring statement among our customers worldwide, and at Plazit-Polygal we stepped up to the challenge a long time ago in search of ways to meet these requests. “We researched ways to manufacture products based on recycled raw material for quite a long time”, recounted Tamir Lavi, VP Marketing Europe. He went on to add that, “Over two years we established an infrastructure and produced products based on 100% recycled material intended for a range of applications”.
Scrap Material for Disposal – Not at Plazit-Polygal!
The landfill disposal process of plastic scrap is increasingly more challenging and costly due to surging disposal costs, difficulty shipping waste to China or India, and regulation, mainly in Europe, hindering the transport of waste throughout the continent. For this reason, requests to find solutions for scrap materials resulting from cutting or converting processes are more frequent. We also understood that finding a comprehensive solution would advance our environmental vision and create value for us in the changing world of plastic.
Therefore, we began a process of collecting polycarbonate (PC) sheet scrap from our customers and from our production sites throughout the world. This scrap is usually the result of continuous processes such as cutting and sewing, but also waste from production lines. The collection process includes two steps we already take at this stage, as they impact the quality of the sheets that can be produced from the recycled material. The first is separation at source based on the color of the different sheets, specifically between transparent and colored sheets. In the second step, we peel off the protective film which protects the polycarbonate sheets from scratches or damage during the converting processes. This protective film is made of PE and adding it to the PC during the recycling process will damage the recycled material quality.
100% Recycling of Polycarbonate Sheets-Sheet to Sheet Recycling
As noted, the sheet scrap arrives at our plant in Israel and undergoes a sorting process (if needed), and is then shredded. We return the shredded material to the production line. It is used to produce solid polycarbonate sheets with thickness ranging from 1.5-15 mm in different opaque colors, among them: white, grey, and black. Thus, similar to the concept of bottle-to-bottle recycling in the world of beverage containers, we carry out sheet-to-sheet recycling. In fact, we fully implement circular economy principles while maintaining the quality of the recycled material and its reuse for precisely the same purpose.
Different Applications of Recycled Sheets
In developing this process, we underscored the importance of ensuring that the properties of the recycled material would not be impaired compared to virgin raw material. The laboratory tests we conducted showed that the mechanical properties of the sheets made of 100% recycled material maintained the mechanical properties of the virgin material.
Nonetheless, on one parameter we found a considerable difference between the virgin and the recycled raw material. An examination of the optical properties indicated decreased transparency, and these sheets are therefore allocated for applications that do not require high-level transparency. One common application of recycled material is in electrical appliances such as washing machines and dryers, refrigerators, and air conditioners. The polycarbonate sheets provide strength and impact resistance to the appliance and are used in the appliance casing or in its back part.
The recycled PC sheets are also used in construction, specifically in electric cable ducts, and for this use their excellent mechanical properties are important. Recycled polycarbonate sheets can also be used in the automotive industry. Most of the sheets are sold to the U.S. where they are widely used, mainly in appliances. We are proud to note that the production of recycled sheets currently comprises about 10% of the overall polycarbonate production volume, amounting to hundreds of tons a year.
We encourage our customers to contact us in the aim of advancing the recycling of polycarbonate sheet scrap and promoting a circular economy and sheet-to-sheet recycling.