Lots of potential for plastics circularity in the Netherlands: CPNL launches 7 projects

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Project launch report: CPNL launches seven new projects for circular plastics chains

On May 28, CPNL reached an important milestone with the launch of seven innovative projects aimed at making Dutch plastics chains circular. This ambitious program, supported by the Growth Fund, awarded €18.5 million in the first open grant round together with the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO). On Thursday, May 23, it was announced that the application of the consortium active in the recycling of rubber tires received 1.5 million grant. For these and 6 other awarded projects Mark Schmets gave the official starting signal in Utrecht. The 7 projects presented by researchers and entrepreneurs gave a glimpse of the potential of circularity for plastics in the Netherlands.

Policy, politics and regulations 

During the project launch on May 28 in Utrecht, Mark Schmets of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate gave a clear explanation: "This marks a significant step forward in the transition to a sustainable and circular economy in the Netherlands. We need these practical examples to show where we want to and can go with innovation. "He looked ahead to the National Plastics Standard and plans for and with European Union partners. "We see a global, European and national playing field that we need to respond to with innovative and competitive solutions, as presented here today. Practical examples that illustrate that it can be done and that there is investment in knowledge and entrepreneurs. The circular economy in practice."

Characterisation, sorting and washing

Research project to develop and apply characterization technologies to increase the quality of recycling output. 

MoQuP-R: Monitoring Quality in Plastic Recycling € 1.9 million

Marcel van Eijk briefly explained where the opportunities for quality improvements lie. He indicated that the plastics value chain lacks detailed information on the circular and recyclable properties of plastics, especially with regard to the use of Post-Consumer Recyclate (PCR) in packaging as required by the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive. This makes it difficult for stakeholders to make choices about processes and technologies. There is little specific data available on the quality of collected plastic blends, especially for high-value recycling.

The project focuses on developing quality monitoring tools and applying existing models to predict recyclate quality and increase the use of PCR in packaging. An integrated approach should enable adjustments in the circular value chain to improve PCR quality including the following activities:

  • Sorting, pretreatment and reprocessing: Develop and demonstrate industrial-scale inline measurement methods for sorting and pretreatment.
  • Mechanical recycling: Developing inline methods in the extrusion process of recycling.
  • Model application: use of existing models to predict recyclate quality.
  • Knowledge dissemination: make developed methods and findings available to the community.

MoQuP-R aims to develop inline characterization technologies for different steps in the recycling chain, and validation of existing quality models for recyclate. This should lead to improved recycling processes and higher quality PCR for packaging.

MoQuP-R is a research project fitting within topic 1 (applying characterization technologies) of the CPNL call. The consortium is formed by knowledge institutions, chain organizations and industrial partners; NTCP, Maastricht University, TNO, LyondellBasell, Danone, Graham Packaging, Verpact.

Research project to develop specific pretreatment and sorting techniques for synthetic rubber from automobile tires.

UPTYRE 1.5 million euros

UPTYRE is here to develop new technologies for detecting, separating and sorting rubber tires. By improving sorting and pretreatment processes, the efficiency and quality of recycling output can increase significantly. This increases the reuse of devulcanized rubber in new car tires and other high-value applications.

Kees van Oostenijk (RecyBem): "Among other things, the project focuses on improving devulcanization, a high-performance recycling technique for reusing rubber from car tires. Car tires are complex products with a mix of materials and various rubber compounds. Recycling them effectively requires differentiated streams of high quality, which is currently limited by insufficient knowledge and technological capabilities."

The project activities are organized into three substantive work packages focused on exploring technologies for automated tire characterization and qualification, resource mining from used tires, and industrial automation of tire sorting. The project promotes cooperation through the entire value chain, from chain director to brand owner, to achieve high-quality recycling of automobile tires.

UPTYRE is a research project aimed at developing advanced techniques for sorting and separating used car tires, fitting within topic 3 (rubber) of the CPNL call. The consortium is formed by chain organization Recybem B.V., Hogeschool Windesheim and University of Twente, and industrial partners Reedijk Used Tyres B.V., Kargro Recycling B.V., Apollo Tyres (Europe) B.V., Avantes B.V., Spectral Industries B.V., Rubber Resources and New Born Rubber.

Mechanical recycling of polyolefin packaging

Showcase (L)LDPE film

SKILLS € 2.9 million

Jolien Stevels of Trioworld explains: "Stretchable LLDPE film, essential for cargo security, offers many advantages but also presents challenges for recycling. Impurities such as paper and other plastics reduce quality, resulting in a lot of material being incinerated or landfilled. Trioworld aims to produce films with Post Consumer Recycled content, which have the same quality as virgin films."

The goal is to achieve a closed chain for stretch film through PCR from the B2B market. This includes increasing incoming material flow quality through technological improvements in sorting, washing, regranulation and filtration. The project also investigates optimal recipes and processing conditions for PCR batches, and a demo line is being set up to scale up the recycling process.

Grolsch wants to achieve 100% virgin-free LLDPE, and Trioworld will work with partners to conduct a field test to confirm the feasibility of large-scale recycling. The project outcome includes in-depth knowledge, a demo plant for high-quality stretch film with at least 50% PCR, and a blueprint for a recycling plant in the Netherlands.

The SKILLS project focuses on the validation of recycling processes for LLDPE stretch film through high-performance chain closure. The consortium is formed by Trioworld, Grolsch, Broeckx recycling, and NTCP.

Showcase: HDPE /PP packaging

Cap-To-Cap Recycling €7.4 million

Rik Eppingbroek of Morssinkhof Plastics was looking to collaborate on a circular solution: "We process used PET bottles into food-safe rPET, but HDPE caps from these bottles were not yet processed in a circular way. With this project, we are committed to closing the cycle of HDPE caps by recycling them into food-safe HDPE recyclate that can be used to produce new caps."

Part of the project includes developing a demonstration plant and meeting mechanical and food safety requirements.

Activities:

  • Development of rHDPE recyclate with food-safe properties.
  • Construction and optimization of a demonstration plant with washing steps, sorting steps, regranulation and decontamination.
  • Perform chemical, mechanical and food safety testing
  • Collaboration with partners such as SABIC as polymer producer and product developer, Corvaglia for cap specifications and Coca-Cola as brand owner for testing the recycled material and also end user. Ducares (Triskelion) supports, among other things, in conducting chemical analyses.

The project will deliver a demonstration plant that produces 5,000 tons of food-safe HDPE cap recyclate annually, suitable for food-safe caps. This contributes to the circular economy by creating a closed-loop for HDPE caps and may open doors for other food-safe polyolefin recyclates.

The consortium is formed by Morssinkhof Plastics, SABIC, Mors-Invest B.V., Corvaglia Mould AG, DUCARES B.V. (Triskelion), Coca-Cola Europacific Partners Nederland B.V.

Chemical depolymerisation

Showcase: polycotton-based textiles

TEXPOWER €4.7 million

The consortium, led by DPI, includes partners: Kringcoop, Frankenhuis, Saxion, Cellicon, Textile Fiber Boost, SaXcell, Spinning Jenny, Enschede Textile City Innovation B.V.

The textile industry has a major environmental impact. The rise of fast fashion has led to an increase in polycotton, a mix of polyester and cotton, which makes recycling difficult. The ban on burning unsold clothing creates an urgent need for solutions to recycle this material. TEXPOWER aims to give the Netherlands a leading role in recycling polycotton textiles.

Activities:

  • Accurate sorting for mechanical and chemical recycling
  • Improving mechanical recycling for longer fibers
  • Chemical treatment to preserve fibers during fiberizing
  • Innovations in spinning and weaving to use recycled fibers
  • Chemical digestion of polycotton to separate polyester and cellulose
  • Production of spinable fibers from chemically obtained cellulose

The project aims to realize a circular polycotton textile value chain. This includes the development of techniques for identification, sorting, disturbance removal, fiber extension/reinforcement, chemical digestion, and processing of cellulose pulp into spinnable fibers. The goal is to produce textile fibers, yarn and cloth from recycled materials. With the following expected results:

  • Innovative identification and sorting techniques
  • Efficient removal of zippers and buttons
  • Improved pretreatment techniques for mechanical recycling
  • Interference dust removal technologies.
  • Unique unlocking technology for polycotton
  • Use of polyester for rPET textile yarn
  • Chemical reprocessing of cellulose pulp into spinning fiber
  • Spinning and weaving techniques for recycled fibers

The project is expected to recycle 25-37% of textiles, including polycotton, as of 2030, and contribute to a circular economy.

Grant for two individual investment proposals

NTCP €12 million

Martine Brandsma of NTCP gave insight into the origins of the Center in Heereveen and plans for the future. This investment from CPNL makes it possible to research and optimize plastic recycling processes in the Netherlands on an almost industrial scale to increase the volume and quality of plastic recycling.

Brightlands Circular Space €25 million

Lia Voermans of Brightlands Circular Space came up with the gesture to do even more research and business from the chains and design of products. With their investments from CPNL, among others, they can start with a House of Circular Design, a skid and demo unit and a polymer processing facility.

The next step for CPNL and the National Growth Fund (NGF)

The NGF focuses on public investments that increase Dutch earning capacity (structural GDP) in the medium to long term in line with Cabinet objectives. This will enable the transition to a sustainable economy and society and the associated innovative power will lead to continued, new and growing business activity in the Netherlands. The NGF ensures that investments can be made to tackle major challenges such as these climate change projects, to tackle social tasks in a future-proof way and to accelerate them. Investments from the NGF are focused on two pillars: knowledge development and research, development and innovation. CPNL is a second-round NGF program, upon a positive evaluation in June 2024, continuity for new grant applications through 2025 will be confirmed. CPNL has 8 program lines and a team of experts who help address bottlenecks and find parties to match grant applications with current knowledge and developments. 

Stay tuned for further developments and results from these groundbreaking projects via LinkedIn and newsletters.

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