DORCHESTER, MASS. - The American Plastics Council will continue to fund beyond its two-year commitment a pilot recycling project for durable goods, and participants say they are eager to market the technologies they have developed. The unassuming, one-story building in Dorchester, a Boston suburb, that houses the materials recycling facility, belies the state-of-the-art recycling research and development that goes on inside.
APC opened the MRF to themedia this month for the first time since it was set up two years ago.
The Washington-based trade group highlighted achievements in mechanical recycling of engineering-grade plastics from automobiles, appliances and business machines.
Al Maten, durables director of the APC, said the promising technology developed during the past two years has convinced APC to continue to fund the project.
``We have done a lot here, but there are still a number of things to do and we feel we have a good start,'' Maten said.
The MRF, which has been operated by wTe Corp. of Albany, N.Y., focused on shop floor development of existing applications and machinery for such processes as size reduction, metal and other non-plastic material separation, sorting and production of flaked post-end-use materials.
Meanwhile, MBA Polymers Inc. of Berkeley, Calif., identified and developed emerging technologies and analyzed test results from the processed materials. Officials of both companies said they are eager to market the technologies when it is feasible, which could include licensing to other firms.
Roger Smith, technical director for DuPont Nylon, a member of the APC durables committee, said the MRF processed 270,000pounds of plastic in the two-yearperiod. The major development has been an increase in the purity of the recovered plastic flake, from 50 percent to more than 99 percent pure.
``The problems of recycling the many kinds of engineering plastics used in durable goods are quite a bit more complicated than recycling packaging materials,'' Smith said.
``We have dealt with problems like size reduction, density separation, and we are convinced that there will be a steady, sustainable growth in the stream of plastics which can be recycled. [Original equipment manufacturers] in each industry have already done a great deal of work in designing their products for easy disassembly and suitability for future recycling,'' Smith said.
WTe's MRF General Manager Chris Ryan said changes in the shop floor configurations have come about through trial and error.
The system now starts with feeding whole scrap parts, such as instrument panels, into a huge shear shredder. Next comes magnetic separation of ferrous metal parts, further size reduction in a rotary shredder, another magnetic separation system, and an air classification system and two sink/float separators.
``I think that because we have been involved in this that we will pursue it as a real business opportunity,'' Ryan said. ``We are actually doing some toll processing now.''
President Mike Biddle of MBA Polymers said he is interested in commercializing as well. He said his company had assessed a variety of equipment for all stages in the wTe process.
``In some cases, like the shear shredders, we had to go to other industries, such as the wood industry,'' he said. ``There was one manufacturer who said his shredder could not be used to do parts that had metal in them, and was shocked when we proved it could.''
Biddle said he was most impressed with a resin identification system he analyzed.
``We analyzed all sorts of resin identification systems, from those used in packaging recycling to a new hand-held system in development in Britain,'' he said. ``Basically, the faster the identification, the fewer the number of materials that can be identified.''
The MRF recently added a midinfrared P/ID 28 system made by Bruker Instruments Inc. of Billerica, Mass. The machine can identify more than 50 resin types, and each identification takes less than 5 seconds. Biddle said the system is limited because each material has to be held up to the system's scanner, increasing labor expense.
``As we have done with all the manufacturers, we are working to adapt the system so it could be used in a conveyor configuration,'' he said.
As much progress as has been made at the MRF, there is still much to be done, agreed Maten, Smith, and Jerry Fosnaugh, co-chairman of APC's automotive committee and director for environmental business development at Dow Plastics.
``Of course the collection of the materials is crucial, and we have been working with the auto dismantlers and many other organizations to develop methods for taking cars apart for recycling,'' Fosnaugh said.
Organizations such as the Vehicle Recycling Partnership - a venture of major automakers and auto dismantlers - the Auto Recyclers Association, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, and others are working to improve collection.
``For instance, we have developed ways that dismantlers can take the seats from a car in only a couple minutes, as opposed to about 20 minutes when we started,'' Fosnaugh said. ``And we are very encouraged by recent studies that show that auto shredder residue is useful as a day cover in landfills.''
Biddle said research is under way to develop methods to separate paint and additives from polymer materials. Maten said ways to recycle multilayer parts and composite plastic parts have yet to be developed.
``This is not the only area we are developing,'' said Maten. ``Within the next 12 months, I think you will see some exciting developments in the areas of feedstock and energy recycling. as well as mechanical.''