Renewi wants to prevent valuable plastic from going to waste

09/05/2022

Burn it? Dump it? Neither, according to waste-to-product company Renewi. It’s all about getting value out of waste. Renewi is currently already able to use more than 90% of its total incoming waste for recycling or energy recovery. When it comes to recycling, 66% of waste is processed here to make a raw material or product, and is given a second chance at life. The goal is to increase this recycling rate to 75% by 2025, and Renewi already has numerous innovation projects under way as part of its Mission 75 programme. One of these is Plastics Acht: the implementation of a new hard plastics recycling line at the Renewi site in Acht, near Eindhoven. Starting in 2023, this new line will make it possible to recycle a greater volume of plastic waste here, with an increase in quality and therefore an improved sorting result. EGEN undertook the grant application for this innovation project.

More sustainable alternative

The existing hard plastics recycling line in Acht is nearing the end of its technical life. It had already been clear to Renewi for some time that simply ‘upgrading’ the line was not sufficient – instead, a more sustainable option was desired. This led to the establishment of the Plastics Acht innovation project. The existing line mainly recycles relatively clean hard plastics, which come in from recycling centres and other places. The new line will soon enable Renewi to recycle the lower-grade hard plastics too. These mostly come from construction and demolition waste and are mostly incinerated at the moment, which is a shame since they could certainly be used with a little effort.

Higher quality

In addition to recycling low-grade hard plastics, the new line in Acht will also be able to deliver different types of higher quality, sorted plastics. ‘That’s good news,’ says Jorrit Nicolai, Plastics Acht project manager. ‘Our customers will soon be able to incorporate our hard plastic flakes directly into their own production processes. Post-sorting will no longer be necessary.’ In order to guarantee the high quality of the outgoing plastic streams, it is important for the new recycling line to be under cover. This will prevent weather conditions such as rain, heat or frost from affecting the recycling process. A separate production hall is therefore being built especially for the new line.

Significant environmental benefit

Jorrit Nicolai, himself the Continuous Improvement Manager at Renewi, explains that his company is continually improving and innovating. ‘That’s why we deliberately included the “i” for innovation in our company name. We hope that the improvements and innovations we implement in our products and processes will contribute to achieving the goal of a climate-neutral society. Circularity is very important for this goal. The best thing about Plastics Acht is that we’ll be able to recycle more streams at a higher quality, and will therefore be reducing incineration and dumping. Thanks to the improved sorting process, you’ll be able to extract real value from your waste. We will also avoid unnecessary transport by adding the extra sorting and purification steps.’ This approach should yield substantial environmental benefits, with a projected reduction of 6.2 kilotons of CO2 equivalent per year after the new recycling line is commissioned.

Best solution

And what was EGEN able to do to support this innovation? ‘A lot,’ says Jorrit Nicolai without hesitation. ‘They worked with us right from the first exploratory meeting to determine the options within the available budget. It quickly became apparent that the national government’s VEKI (Accelerated Industry Climate Investments) grant scheme, which supports CO2-saving measures, was the best fit. Within a very short time, we were able to submit the plan to the implementer of the scheme, the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO). And the result was positive: we received a significant grant that sealed our management’s decision to invest. Even now, the EGEN experts continue to consult with us on the difficult matter of rising raw material prices that mean we have to consider very carefully how we can still achieve our intended product and process optimisation. In that respect, EGEN is a pragmatic and proactive partner and they will not rest until they have found the very best solution for us.’

Cross-pollination

And is 2023 the end of the road? ‘No, not at all,’ says Jorrit Nicolai, ‘on the contrary – the innovation process doesn’t stop there. Of course, we’ll have this new line for recycling hard plastics to a high standard, which in turn will lead to a better and higher standard for plastic recycling. We also expect to be able to recycle even more plastic material flows into raw materials in the future. All of this will undoubtedly bring about some great cross-pollination, both internally and externally.’

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