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WHAT IS PET AND HOW IS IT RECYCLED?

Definition and Brief History of PET

PET is known as polyester and is the abbreviation of polyethylene terephthalate. Because PET is a lightweight plastic, it is used as food and beverage packaging. It is also transparent and strong, which is why it is the most widely used soft drink packaging material. Other uses for packaging include cooking oils, glass cleaners, salad dressings, and shampoos. Containers for ready meals that can be heated in a microwave oven are also made of PET, but because of the heat, the PET used here is a special type of PET.

Ethylene glycol and terephthalic acid are brought together to form a polymer chain, PET emerges. These PET chains are similar to spaghetti. Once the production process is complete, they are turned into pellets.

PET was first synthesized in the 1940s by Dupont and patented in 1950s . The synthetic fiber form of PET is polyester itself, which is used in the fiber and fabric industries around the world. It is called resin in packaging and other usage areas.

The reason why PET, which does not contain plasticizers and bisphenol-A, is used safely for food and beverages is that it has been approved by the FDA and other global health safety institutions as a result of many years of studies and tests. It is non-reactive with foodstuffs, resistant to microorganisms and efficient in use compared to glass packaging.

The PET material bales brought to the recycling facility are opened and the PET packages are separated from each other. PETs transferred to the conveyor belt are cleaned by steam and chemicals. Labels are removed. This is the prewash phase. This stage makes it easier to detect other contaminants with infrared technology. Separation straps and metal detectors do the same.

What is PET Recycling Process?

PET is ground after Pre-Washing, label removal and detection of contaminants. The purer the flake obtained, the higher the economic value of the recycled PET will be. Undoubtedly, there are many more contaminants that need to be cleaned from PET. The next step for this is the water bath. The materials are placed in water-filled containers, then washed and ventilated. At these stages, the use of disinfectant can also be beneficial. These three stages are actually processes of obtaining hygienic flakes.

Cleaning of remaining contaminants is continued with rinsing. This rinse also helps remove detergent residues. Before the final step, it is necessary to completely dry the PET.

This last but most important step is called melt filtration. A special filtering technology is used to completely clean the PET from contaminants. In this way, the purity of PET materials as recycled material is increased. Extruded PET goes through several screens. These screens can be metal mesh or laser filters. During this transition, the passage of unmelted particles is prevented by laser filters or metal nets. Pellets are obtained to be reused as the output of PET recycling completed in this way.

MELT FILTRATION SYSTEMS for PLASTIC RECYCLING

The filtration technologies used in melt filtration systems are different from each other. Choosing the right filtration technology is necessary to maintain the quality of the recycling output. In addition, the performance required in the recycling process of input and output plastic materials is also decisive in this selection.

The role of melt filters in plastic recycling is very important. It is even decisive. Because laser filters separate aluminum, paper, rubber, cardboard, wood and even foreign plastics in molten plastic from recycled plastic. If this filtration is not performed with a sufficiently high performance, the purpose of recycling cannot be achieved, that is, a quality material that can be reused cannot be obtained. Therefore, obtaining quality pellets as a final product depends on filtration in line with the performance needs of both input and output pellets.

Basically, it is possible to talk about two filtration systems. The first of these is back flushing filters. Wire mesh screens are used in these filters. The other is self-cleaning continuous filters and steel screen discs are used for filtration.

Automatic Back Flushing Filters

Automatic back flushing filters have piston screen changer systems with back flushing and are used in wire mesh filters. Two filter cavities are carried by each piston. The purpose of these cavities is to transport packages of wire mesh screen. In this system, which offers a cyclic process, there is filtering with mesh sizes of 32 microns and below.

Filters are made from woven wires. Therefore, the open area ratio per unit surface area is high. These systems are designed in a way that allows them to be developed and to increase their capacities. So much so that the capacity of one piston and two screens can be increased up to 6 pistons and 12 screens. With the 6-piston screen changer, the melt pressure difference in the back flushing cycle is very low. While maintaining the stability and continuity of the recycling process, only one of the 12 screens is in back flush mode. Others are in full production.

Self-Cleaning Continuous Filters

Laser filters are used for continuous plastic recycling filtration periods. That’s why they’re called self-cleaning continuous filters. These continuous filtrations are performed at stable pressure levels. Considering the mesh screen filters, the time for the contaminants to be present in the filtration process is much shorter. Because mesh filters have to wait for back flushing.

Screen disc filters is another filtration technology. It has a steel plate. The orifices on this steel plate are made by laser. Technically, the reason for the use of laser is to provide the most appropriate filtration precision. The melted plastic, which is started to be recycled, passes through these orifices. Contaminants remain on the laser filter. Melt pressure increases as contaminants accumulate and the stripping mechanism of the laser filtration machine works and scrapes the accumulated contaminants from the filter. Each of the screen has three scrapers. This is to ensure that the melt flow is not blocked by contaminants. Thus, high efficiency is obtained even in materials with high contamination rate.

RECYCLABLE PLASTICS

There are 7 types of plastic widely used in the world. The most important features that distinguish plastic types from each other are their usage areas. So not every type of plastic can be used for everything. Therefore, they differ in size, color and characteristics of being recyclable plastic waste. The issue of recycling brings up how much of which type of plastic can be recycled or whether it can be recycled. Another question is which products are recyclable plastics used as raw materials for later.

Recycling and the Challenges It Faces

Theory and practice are not always parallel in the recycling of plastic. For example, in theory all types of plastic can be recycled. The reason why this does not happen in practice is due to economic reasons. That’s why not every plastic can be recycled. When a plastic cannot be recycled:

* There is more than one type of plastic in the same product. Each type of plastic goes through different recycling processes. Separation of plastic types in this same product is a very costly process. Recycling should not cause economic damage in the recovery process.

* It is not clean enough. Plastic used for food and other items may be too dirty to be cleaned. The structure of the resins may deteriorate. In this case, although economic costs are taken into consideration, plastic has lost its recyclable quality.

* The recycling facility cannot survive economically. Like other production facilities, the operation of recycling facilities below their capacity reduces efficiency and increases costs. On the other hand, the establishment of these facilities is equivalent to millions of dollars. In a region where the demand for plastic recycling is low, these facilities will not exist, so plastic cannot be recycled in these regions.

Apart from this negative picture, which types of plastics are theoretically not an obstacle to recycling?

HDPE

HDPE stands for High Density Polyethylene. HDPE is recycled all over the world. Because it is a polymer that is very easy to recycle. Recycling companies collect the products made of HDPE and send them to the facilities. Although PET is known by people as transparent or colored, HDPE can also be transparent or colored. Post consumer HDPE products are used in the production of all kinds of non-food packaging materials after they are recycled.

Sometimes it is used for products that need durable plastic such as roadside borders and benches, depending on the quality level.

PET

PET ranks first among recycled plastics in the world. For example, the amount of pet collected for recycling worldwide in 2011 is around 7.5 million tons. The most important positive aspect of PET is this: When a PET bottle is recycled, another PET bottle can be produced.

PVC

It is not a type of plastic that can be recycled.

LDPE

It means low-density polyethylene. LDPE is also called number 4 plastic. It is a grocery bag, and these bags are not well remembered. Although theoretically recyclable, these plastic bags are very likely to cause the recycling machines to malfunction.

RECYCLING DICTIONARY

When products and materials come to the end of their life, reuse, upcycling, recycling, incineration, and landfilling come into question.

Reuse

Reuse of a material means that it regains its life for the use that is its raison d’etre. Reused materials or products are called second-hand or refurbished. Here, when we look at it in terms of recycling, the material or product does not undergo a major change.

Upcycling

In this case, no major changes are made to the product, but it is used for a different purpose than the production purpose at the beginning of the product’s life. Its overall appearance is not changed for this different purpose use. Planting flowers in a teapot, using a cart wheel as a stand, designing seating areas or beds from shipping pallets can be given as examples for upcycling.

Recycling

This term, which is the most familiar to us, is the process of saving the raw materials of the produced products from being waste and including them in the production again. In other words, the material of the product, not the product, is recycled and recycled raw materials are obtained. For this, the product is melted after being separated from foreign materials. Products made of all kinds of plastic, aluminum and metal materials, including water bottles, may be subject to this process.

Incineration

Technically it is actually the conversion of waste matter into energy. For this conversion, the waste material is burned or subjected to processes where it can turn into gas. Fuel can also be produced from some products or materials. The main product is completely destroyed in this process because the high temperature molecularly breaks down the material.

Landfilling

It may also be possible to define it as  storage. The waste is piled up and covered with dirt and other materials. Although this definition is evaluated under the heading of recycling, there is no output of this storage since no material or product is recovered. In some cases, it provides the formation of methane gas and this methane gas is consumed as energy.

Wastes

Post-Industrial These are the wastes generated in factory production. These types of waste are part of the production process. They are generally scraps, product scraps and wastes from production processes.

Pre-Consumer It is the type of waste created by the products with production defect. Products that are produced in more than the order amount from time to time are also considered as waste and included in this group.

Post-Consumer Actually, we can call this waste the last waste. The material comes to the factory, passes through the production process, becomes a product and reaches the end consumer. The consumer uses the product and then throws it away. The products thrown into this garbage are post consumer wastes.

What Materials Can We Recycle?

In brief the materials that we can recycle as follow: 

  • Plastics 
  • Metals (Aluminium, Steel, Copper)
  • Glass
  • Paper ( Cardboard, Office Paper and Magazines)
  • E-Waste ( Some kind of electronic materials)
  • Textiles
  • Batteries

CIRCULAR ECONOMY

The economic system we live in today is a linear system. In other words, we obtain the materials necessary for the production of our needs from nature, that is, from the world. we produce products with these materials and finally throw away the leftovers from the products. We produce waste.

Circular economics, on the other hand, has the opposite explanation. First of all, no waste is produced in this economic system. There are three cornerstones of the circular economy: the elimination of waste and pollution, the circulation of products and materials at the highest rates, and the renewal of nature.

The biggest supporter of this system is the transition to renewable energy and materials. In the circular economy, which offers flexibility for the business world, the environment and human beings, economic activities are carried out separately from the consumption of limited natural resources.

The circular economy is a pool of solutions that covers all the measures and actions taken against waste and pollution, climate change and biodiversity loss.

In order to be included in the circular economy system, which is one of the ways of our integration with the world we live in, every material in the existing produce-produce-dispose system must be transformed. We need to analyze how we manage our resources, how we produce and consume products, and then what we do with the materials we have left. This is the only way to create a circular economy that includes the whole world.

In fact, they are not what we call disposable products. It is the world and the economy that is thrown away. How is the economy that is not reintegrated into a waste-free economy, in which resources are included in the cycle and nature is revived?

The circular economy addresses social needs by offering solutions to environmental problems. While this cyclicality reduces environmental problems, it increases social welfare and improves employment.

Recycling vs. Circular Economy

Recycling is all the actions taken to make waste materials reusable, that is, to convert them.

Recycling starts from the end. The product is returned from the dead. However, it would be wrong to call it a recycling system for the circular economy. Because recycling is only one part of the circular economy. The circular economy starts before the product is produced. The minimum waste and pollution is calculated and then the raw materials of the product are procured and the product is produced with the least waste. After all these processes are completed, the recycling phase can be mentioned. From this point of view, recycling alone is insufficient to solve environmental and economic problems.

Why Circular Economy

The aim of the circular economy is not to have to come to the recycling stage and to develop ways to do so. Although it may seem like a cliché, solving the problem at the source is to prevent waste from the beginning.

According to the circular economy framework, waste and pollution are the design errors of the hundreds of years old economic system. The Band-Aid of this design error is recycling. Reaching a stage where there is no need for recycling means that the circular economy is successful in preventing waste of resources.

REMARKABLE RECYCLING INVESTMENT FROM EASTMAN

Eastman, which has been producing chemical products worldwide since 1920, announced that it would invest in a large recycling facility in France. Company officials noted that with this facility, 160,000 tons of plastic can be recycled annually.

The budget of the said investment will reach up to 1 billion USD. It is emphasized that the recycling facility planned to be established in France will be the largest molecular plastic recycling facility in the world.

Mark Costa, Chairman and CEO of Eastman, made the announcement of this major investment together with President of France Emmanuel Macron.

Eastman refers to the facility as “material-to-material molecular recycling.” The recycling technology to be used in the facility is polyester renewal technology. With this technology, up to 160,000 tons of waste plastic will be recycled annually. These plastic wastes will consist mostly of plastics that are difficult to recycle and have to be incinerated.

Plastic waste, which is difficult to recycle, will be transformed into first-class raw materials, especially for textile applications and the packaging industry. In order to achieve this transformation, the project will also include the installation of the methanollysis unit, which depolymerizes the waste and polymer lines of the units that will make the plastic scrap ready for plastic processing.

The United States-based firm, based in Tennessee, had previously set up a smaller facility in its state, but with the same function. It was stated that the reasons for establishing the world’s largest plastic recycling facility in France were related to France’s leading role in the global economy. In addition, Eastman stated that it is among the plans to establish an innovation center in France in the future.

Eastman plans to have the plant operational by 2025. According to the company’s statement, it emphasizes that private brands that support global molecular recycling support the project. Brands such as LVMH Beauty, the Estée Lauder Companies, Clarins, Procter & Gamble, L’Oréal and Danone have already made written statements of intent to source recycled plastics from the plant’s output.

Barbara Pompili, Minister of Ecological Transition of France, made statements on the project

” The circular economy transition is one of the most important issues that needs to be accelerated in the coming years. However, it is also one of its biggest challenges. This investment by Eastman in our country will be revolutionary. It will be one of our biggest helpers on the way to our ecology and economy goals. This is a source of great excitement for us We’re talking about a 100-year-old company. Eastman has been involved in molecular recycling for more than 30 years. It’s an important experience.”

Eastman CEO Costa said:

” What makes this investment important is that it takes the strategy of developing the circular economy worldwide one step further. France and EU countries make important promises in this strategy and this project will contribute to these bold commitments. As Eastman, we are proud to be together around this goal. This is our project. It is also our economic strategy.We are excited and impatient to protect our planet and to develop and implement the necessary innovations on this path.”

Importance of Recycling

The Limitation of Nature, That is, of Life

Every resource in nature that surrounds us is limited. We can also say it this way: Nothing in the world is eternal. Considering that even people do not live forever, that is, their lifespans are limited, this concept of limitation becomes more understandable and acceptable.

There is no resource that man can meet his needs other than nature. When we consider that the world population is over 7 billion, it is not possible for natural resources to meet these needs alone and unilaterally. Man should give back to nature as much as he can give, even if he cannot get as much as he takes.

Consuming the resources in nature for those we need means that we cause an irreplaceable void in nature for every substance we produce. Unfortunately, the products we produce by taking from nature to meet our needs have no equivalent in nature. So what does that mean? By mixing the organic materials we receive from nature with inorganic materials, we prevent them from returning to nature. Or we poison nature for substances that have no place in nature. Unfortunately, the biggest responsible for these is the products we call disposable. The main raw material of these disposable products is plastic, and plastic is a substance that nature does not accept, that is, it does not dissolve in nature.

We can only solve this problem by recycling.

So What Is Recycling?

Although plastic comes first among the substances that pollute the nature, recycling is not only about plastic, it also applies to all kinds of substances that pollute the nature. Recycling is actually a kind of re-production. Recovering these pollutants through some processes and converting them into raw materials for the production of final products. That is, it is a process of inclusion in a re-production process. In fact, although it is almost late for recycling, the decrease in natural resources in the world has increased the importance of recycling awareness and the need for recycling is increasing day by day.

What Do We Get With Recycling?

We need to recycle products made from raw materials such as cardboard, plastic, glass and metal so that we can use them again and again. In this way, we ensure that nature remains clean by not releasing substances that do not dissolve in nature. In other words, we do not make what we produce that does not belong to nature a burden of nature. Thus, first of all, we do not pollute our food sources.

Recycling has another meaning and duty besides protecting nature. This task is to ensure that limited material resources are not wasted and thus saved. We save both for ourselves and for nature.

Recycling of Plastic

The most important obstacle to protecting both our own money and nature is non-recycled plastic waste. Plastic waste management actually starts at home. Separating these wastes and throwing them into plastic waste containers provides convenience in terms of subsequent recycling processes. It is the inclusion of more plastic waste in the plastic recycling process. Another issue is the storage of plastics in nature or in the city, so the place they cover is also a big problem.

Thanks to the recycling of plastic, new raw materials are obtained for reuse. In addition, toxic gases caused by new plastic production are not released into the atmosphere.

INTERPLASTICA 2022

The international plastic and rubber fair is held this year at ExpoCentre AO in Moscow from 25 to 28 January 2022 with the theme of “Recycling Solutions”.

676 exhibitors from 27 countries participated in the last Interplastica fair held in 2020, and the fair was visited by 24,950 visitors.

In 2022, secondly, a fairground has been determined at Interplastica: Recycling Solutions.

According to the press release of Messe Düsseldorf, which organizes the fair, regarding this fair theme, recycling and sustainability are becoming more popular day by day and the number of companies that keep up with this transformation is increasing.  Companies not only make plastic recycling a part of their production and business processes, but also seek the answer to the question of what more can be done to reduce waste output with the motto of zero waste, to protect natural and commercial resources, and to act responsibly towards the environment, that is, they follow the developments in plastic recycling constantly.

Russia and Recycling

In terms of these developments, the waste management and recycling practices of Russia becoming a candidate for the future environmental protection market are among the topics included in the press release. The fact that the need for modernization in this area is not ignored by the Russian government is cited as one of the most important reasons why it has become one of the candidate countries to be a pioneer in waste management. The government starts this recycling modernization from the municipalities. Russia has completed the necessary legal arrangements for municipalities to have adequate and developed recycling infrastructures in the next few years’ recycling plans. Investments are made in recycling facilities. Even manufacturers and importers have to carry out their trade and production according to their recyclability rates.

Considering all this, it is clear that Russia is a promising, growing and voluminous market for the recycling industry and its suppliers.

This is the main reason why a exhibition space for Recycling Solutions was created at Interplastica 2022. In addition, the success of participation in 2020 has been a kind of proof that the recycling theme will be even more successful.

In this fair area, besides bringing together the demanders and suppliers of recycling, a high-level conference program on recycling has also been prepared. In this conference program, not only the solutions, but also the new plastic recycling problems will be mentioned, and the reviews of the companies that are the representatives of these technologies will be included.

According to the statistics of Messe Düsseldorf, 40% of the visitors visited the recycling fairground and 96% were highly satisfied with this theme. The main product groups in the exhibition area themed Recycling Solutions include recycling raw materials, recyclers, pelletizers, separation technologies, compounding lines, shredding technologies and recycling plants.

Exhibitors will benefit from a special area reserved for recycling technology companies in Recycling Solutions. In addition, this fair area will be highlighted in press releases and online.

In Interplastica 2022, there will be around 600 participants from 26 countries. The number of visitors this year is expected to be over 25,000.

PLASTIC RECYCLING OVERVIEW

Due to the increasing production amounts, plastic wastes emerging in different industries are increasing day by day. Before the awareness of environmental awareness and, more importantly, its responsibility was a necessity, these plastic wastes were stored in an area and were not reused in any way. In fact, some companies unfortunately left these plastic wastes to nature. This posed a serious threat to the environment.

Fortunately, thanks to the legal regulations regarding the environment, the awareness of both protecting the nature and providing economic recovery has become widespread.

What is Recycling?

Recycyling is actually a reprocessing process and requires high technology, knowledge and experience. The recycling process of plastic begins with the purification of plastic from visible foreign materials. Then the plastics are separated according to their type, that is, they are categorized. Afterwards, they are shredded in crushing machines so that the shredded plastic is called bran. Bran is a semi-product of recycling and must be obtained without damaging the intrinsic quality of the plastic. The bran, which has passed through the washing and drying processes in order to increase the quality, is reprocessed after this point. In fact, this is kind of like the remanufacturing of plastic and requires precision technology.

Plastics, which are separated according to their usage areas and turned into bran, are melted and fused at the appropriate temperature in agromel machines. Filtration, which is the next step for melted plastic, is a very critical step. Because it is a stage that requires high technology, where molten plastic is separated from invisible foreign materials.

This separation is done with the Laser Filtering Machine and there is a filtering machine specially developed for this separation. As the molten plastic passes through this machine, it is compressed by two disc-shaped filters. As a result of this compression, invisible foreign substances come to the other surface of the filters. While the filtered clean plastic continues on its journey to be granulated, the waste materials are taken into another container.

Although the surfaces of laser filters appear almost flat, they are porous. In this way they can filter invisible foreign substances.

Laser filtration stage is actually the most important recycling step, as it is a kind of disinfection stage of plastic. It requires high technology and knowledge. The laser filtration machine has heat resistances to maintain the melted state of the plastic. Its two circularly moving blades can rotate 180 degrees and its rotation speeds can be adjusted. There is a water cooler installed to the output of the screw hub to get semi melted output fraction. Depending on ΔP, PLC system decides the rotational speed of sweeper blades and hub-screw dirty fraction discharge mechanism.

Considering all these features of the system, the quality of the recycled plastic output that can be used in all areas depends entirely on the laser filtration system. Otherwise, the entire recycling process will be wasted. In order for the laser filtration machine to work efficiently and without errors, laser filters must be replaced regularly with the new ones.