When selecting products, the focus is usually on criteria such as quality, functionality or design. But what happens to the product after it has been used? This question is becoming increasingly important. Plastics are still valuable resources even after they have been used. How easily a material can be recycled depends on its recyclability. But what does recyclability actually mean and how recyclable are our plastics?
The responsible use of resources includes recycling at the end of a product’s lifecycle. There are many possibilities for thermoplastic products. Their chemical structure allows for different types of recycling, from materials recovery to raw materials processing to final thermal recovery for energy generation.
Thermal recovery refers to the incineration of plastic waste to generate energy.
Chemical recycling of plastics is a preferred alternative to purely thermal recovery. It is based on the decomposition of the plastic into its basic materials (e.g. oils) by chemical processes. These raw materials can then be reused. Chemical recycling is particularly suitable for plastics for which materials recovery is either impossible or difficult.
Material recycling is ecologically and economically more advantageous, since the processes required are less complex than the production of plastics from raw materials during chemical recycling. An important prerequisite for material recycling is collection sorted by type. This means that plastic waste is sorted according to its material, i.e. such as PP, PE, etc. The technical processes involved in material recycling are diverse. In general, the recycling process consists of various steps such as shredding, cleaning, separating and reprocessing, mostly by melting the materials collected in order to obtain raw materials for new products. Not every plastic survives this process equally well in terms of its later properties. This its what defines its recyclability.
Thermoplastic materials are easier to recycle than other types of plastic, as they can be plastically reshaped in a certain temperature range and are easier to mechanically shred and melt. Many of our thermoplastic materials are often recycled after use and reused for the same purposes. This ensures that they make a valuable contribution to sustainable and environmentally friendly resource conservation.
Composite materials are more difficult to recycle, since separating the different component materials usually involves a lot of effort and is often difficult to implement from an economic point of view. Nevertheless, new options are always being developed. In the case of glass fibre-reinforced plastics, for example, the glass fibres can be removed from the composite by thermal processes and used again as a filler.
This form of recycling has already been applied to our composite materials with glass fibre reinforcement. In this way, our composite materials can also serve as a source of raw material for future products after their use phase.
Do you have any questions about the recyclability of our materials? We would be happy to advise you.