Total has successfully completed an industrial-scale test run of a proprietary recycling process for polystyrene on a European PS production line following a series of pilot stage trials.
Post-consumer scrap supplied by recycling companies was transformed into simple flakes and/or granulates for the trial.
The scale-up, tested over several days of continuous production with several hundred tonnes per run of recycling-grade post-consumer PS, demonstrated the feasibility of sustainably incorporating about 20% of post-consumer recycled polystyrene with (80%) virgin polystyrene.
To evaluate the full potential of the technology, the test run has been subsequently repeated. Production capability and product performances came up to the mark.
Total is now planning to develop purification techniques that could treat a variety of post-consumer waste types with the objective of finding a process capable of handling complex PS waste streams on conventional polymerisation lines.
As part of the process, the purification steps would be connected to the polymerisation stage.
While the industrial work was performed in Belgium, it can be potentially replicated for other assets after some simple adaptations.
Beyond PS, Total is pursuing a series of development projects that address the recyclability of polyethylene and polypropylene.
- Polystyrene is one of the easiest polymers to recycle.
- It is an innovative way to enlarge the accessible market for recycled polystyrene.
- It is a valuable way to convert large volumes of post-consumer waste.
- PS naturally provides outstanding performance for various applications.
- It will be a significant contributor to the Circular Economy.
- Managing contamination of recycled streams of post-consumer waste.
- Need robust purification techniques to handle complex polystyrene waste streams.
- These techniques also need to be implemented on existing production lines to keep costs down.
- Food contact is a target but beyond the technical challenge, the administrative dossier will require time. As with 100% virgin resin we need to demonstrate that the process that we are going to apply is efficient enough to avoid any contamination when using PCR material. There are also some restrictions given by the EFSA to overcome (e.g. > 95% of the PS initial stream must be food contact).
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