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Pre-consumer plastic wastes are generated during the manufacture of virgin plastics from raw materials (oil, natural gas, salt, etc.) and from the conversion of plastics into plastic products. The nature of waste arising in various processing methods is discussed in [14]. Such waste streams are soiled (floor sweepings, skimmings from wastewater treatment, crusts from polymerization reactors), mixed (laboratory testing), or off-specifications. Both production and conversion waste are easily identified and collected and handled by professional scrap dealers that discover and develop applications and market outlets that allow the use of secondary resins with less stringent and less defined specifications.

The amount of plastic waste generated is still considerably less than that of plastics produced: in numerous applications (building, furniture, appliances) plastics meet long-term requirements before their disposal and therefore do not yet occur in the waste stream in big quantities. The majority of plastic wastes are found in municipal solid waste (MSW), as well as in waste streams arising in distribution, agriculture, construction and demolition, furniture and household ware, automotive, electronic and electrical, or medical applications. For a number of years the APME has ordered studies to be made that compile inventories of on the one hand production figures, on the other waste arising, by resin, country, and application and activity.

In their efforts to educate the public and curtail the expansion of waste arising the authorities have devised a number of legal instruments to make inappropriate disposal more expensive (various levies, such as landfill taxes) and recycling more attractive, if not mandatory. More and more waste streams are forced into this route, by means of take-back obligations and minimum recycling quota. Under pressure from legislation, recycling of packaging products has increased dramatically from 1995. These directives are:

  • Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive 94/62/EC;
  • End of Life Vehicles Directive 2000/53/EC;
  • Electrical and Electronic Waste: WEEE Directive 2000/96/EC;
  • ROHS Directive 2000/95/EC.

However, the effect is not identical for all materials. Table 1.11 shows the results of such take-back obligation for different packaging materials in Belgium, the collection and recycling of which is entrusted to Fost Plus.

It follows that in Belgium (10 M inhabitants) Fost Plus pays more than 280 €/ton for ensuring the collection and recycling of used packaging, including:

  • 5.77 kg PET/inhabitant per year;
  • 1.65 kg HDPE/inhabitant per year.

In Denmark the amount of plastic packaging waste collected for recycling amounted in 2001 to 3.9 kg per inhabitant or 8.6 kg per household, compared with the potential amount, equivalent to 28.1 kg per inhabitant or 62.0 kg per household.

Waste from the automotive industry, particularly from end-of-life-vehicles (ELV), has been identified by the E.U. as another priority waste stream. After dismantling larger parts suitable for mechanical recycling, the vehicle is shredded, the metal fraction (about 75%) is removed, and the remaining residue is known as automotive shredder residue (ASR),

Table 1.11 Packaging materials recycled by Fost Plus, Belgium (2003)

Material recycled

Tonnage (kton)

Contribution (M€)

Contribution (€/ton)





Paper and board




















Beverage cartons




Other recyclables




Other nonrecyclables








a mixture of many different materials (Wittstock, BASF, at 2nd ISFR). ASR is a major problem, since car manufacturers in Europe and Japan are forced to respect high recycling quotas, suggesting the following conclusions (Schaeper, Audi AG, at 2nd ISFR):

  • weight-related quota for mechanical recycling impede a lightweight design;
  • feedstock processes are favourable to recover lightweight cars;
  • feedstock processes should count as recycling processes;
  • there is a need to increase acceptance of feedstock processes.

Feedstock recovery of ASR is conceivable via conversion into reducing gases after injecting into the blast furnace in integrated iron and steel mills. Other gasification routes were developed by Dow, Shell, Texaco, and Lurgi (Schwarze Pumpe). Ebara Co. developed fluid bed gasifiers for MSW, ASR and plastics from selective collection. The latter are converted into synthesis gas at an operating pressure of 2-3 MPa, a development in collaboration with Ube Industries. Full-scale plants are operating at present on each of these feedstocks, e.g. Sakata (MSW), Aomori (ASR) and Ube (mixed plastics).

At 2nd ISFR, T. Yamamoto presented the gasification/melting system developed by Sumitomo Metal Industries for converting MSW into high-calorific gas using metallurgical techniques and oxygen.

Yasuda et al. studied the hydro-gasification of HDPE. Advanced rapid coal hydro-gasification (ARCH) in Japan is developed as a route in the conversion of coal into synthetic natural gas.

Worldwide use of plastics in consumer electronics and electrical equipment is growing very rapidly, as is the waste volume related to such products, albeit with a time lag. Similar rules affect the resulting electronic and electrical scrap (E & E), consisting of a broad mix of thermoplastics (e.g. HIPS, ABS, ABS-PC) for the casings and thermosets (epoxy resins) as major printed circuit board (PCB) material. The material is shredded, metal parts separated and sent to metal processing companies. Van Schijndel and Van Kasteren consider reprocessing using reactive agents such as siloxanes. The heavy metal content of casings, e.g. from computer monitors or TV sets, is very low and these streams can be separately shredded. An innovative depolymerization process using supercritical CO2 can process heavy-metal-containing thermosets. In this way monomer recovery takes place and heavy metals are separated from the materials for reprocessing.

Several case studies in electronic and electrical scrap were presented at 2nd ISFR:

  • components of a telephone were pyrolysed by Day et al. (National Research Council of America),
  • Satoh et al. (Sony Co.) reclaimed the magnetic material from tapes using supercritical water to dissolve the resin;
  • Noboru Kawai et al. (Victor Company of Japan, Ltd; National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology) tackled the Chemical Recovery of bisphenol-A from waste CDs or other polycarbonate resins.

An interesting alternative solution was developed in Denmark by Watech. However, industrial preference was given to another process, combining hydrolysis as a method for converting chlorine into hydroxyl substituents.

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