LIFE PlasPLUS revisits the concept of recycling with its holistic approach to simultaneously close the loop for two traditionally siloed material value chains, plastics and minerals, by producing high purity recycled thermoplastics and antimony. These two materials in high demand, notably for the emerging electric mobility sector requiring the increased use of lightweight materials and flame retardants to, respectively, lower energy consumption and increase fire safety.

Project title: Recycling of high-quality secondary thermoplastics and recovery of critical raw materials (antimony) from mixed plastic waste in the automotive and the electrical and electronic equipment sectors.

Funding programme: LIFE Programme

Overview of the LIFE PlasPLUS project

LIFE PlasPLUS is a project funded under the European Union’s LIFE programme for Environment and Resource Efficiency. The project targets an innovative technology challenging the current state-of-the-art recycling process and transforming the current downcycled or landfilled/incinerated waste in high-purity secondary thermoplastics.

LIFE PlasPLUS improves the recycling of high-quality secondary thermoplastics and critical raw materials found in end-of-life vehicle waste (ELV) and waste of the electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). The three major project objectives are :

  • Step 1: Production of high purity thermoplastics
  • Step 2: Automated multi-class sensor-based sorting and separation of Flame Retardant Plastics
  • Step 3: Recycling of by-product Antimony (Sb) through catalytic conversion and hydrometallurgy

Furthermore, LIFE PlasPLUS seeks to provide a complete solution for the economic recovery of thermoplastics and by-products through transformation in added-value raw materials and products for the automotive and electrical and electronic equipment sectors.

By using secondary thermoplastics instead of virgin material, the fast-growing sectors will limit energy, water, and resource consumption, as well as cut gas emissions while reusing critical raw materials.

Project objectives

  • Demonstrate the feasibility of recycling 45% of the plastic concentrate into added-value thermoplastic streams by scaling up a new froth flotation/triboelectricity demonstration unit.
  • Achieve a scale up of the current prototype from batch production of 150 kg/h with technology readiness level (TRL)6 to pre-commercial level of continuous production at 1 500 kg/h at TRL7. This will process >98%-pure polystyrene (PP), filled polypropylene (FPP) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) regrinds.
  • Adapt a sensor-enabled separator that can detect flame retardant plastics (FRPs) [250 kg/h throughput] and separate fibre-reinforced plastic at 250 kg/h.
  • Substitute >40% virgin thermoplastics with secondary ones in three new secondary compounds for the automotive and EEE markets;
  • Validate the quality of the produced compounds in three standard vehicle parts and in flame retardant batches for the EEE sector.
  • Showcase a closed-loop production for the valuable flame-retardant element (Antimony Trioxide -ATO- or Sb2O3), also validating its flame-retardant performance in recycled plastics.
  • Conduct life cycle analyses and socio-economic analyses to confirm the environmental benefits and techno-economic soundness of the concept.
  • Develop a replication and transfer plan as a sustainable business model for other facilities around Europe.