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An innovative alternative to disposing polypropylene products in landfills

 

About the project

Polypropylene is an oil-derived polymer and the second most widely used commodity polymer after polyethylene.  It is used extensively in a large range of products, such as food and beverage packaging, carpets, electronics, automobile interiors, pipes, home furnishings and even bank notes.  However, polypropylene is a non-sustainable resource and a substantial contributor to the non-biodegradable plastics, which are commonly, found polluting both land and sea. Only 1% of polypropylene products are currently recycled, with the rest ending up in landfill. 

A notable source of polypropylene waste comes from used carpet. In the UK alone ~400,000 te of waste carpet produced each year of which 66% (264,000 te) ends up directly going to landfill, where it takes 20-30 years to completely decompose.  Of the remaining waste, a small amount is recycled, with the majority being used as Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF) and burnt to produce energy. This not only releases CO2 into the atmosphere, but disregards the value of polypropylene as a resource and necessitates further consumption of fossil resources to replace it in the supply chain.

The ISOPREP project offers an innovative solution to the management of waste polypropylene products. The primary focus of this project is to take end of life carpet and exploit a novel patented solvent-based technology to extract virgin quality polypropylene that is suitable for high end use. The key benefits of this technology are:

◾ The reduced need for production of polypropylene from fossil fuel resources.

◾ The prevention of waste polypropylene products being sent to landfill or being used as an SRF.

The ISOPREP project is supported by the European Union Horizon2020 programme, within the Efficient recycling processes for plastics containing materials call.

Objectives of the project

The main objectives of the ISOPREP project are:

◾  To design and develop a pilot plant for the solvent-based recycling of end-of-life polypropylene using a waste carpet feedstock.

◾  To produce virgin quality polypropylene that has a similar performance with polypropylene resin freshly manufactured from fossil fuel resources.

◾  To produce virgin quality polypropylene that is cost competitive with polypropylene resin freshly manufactured from fossil fuel resources.

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Impacts of the project

◾  Sustainable and alternative method for plastic production.  ISOPREP will return post-consumer polypropylene waste to a pure resin of a quality suitable for high-end, added-value applications.

◾  Decreased utilisation of primary fossil fuels in the process industry.  Weight for weight, the use of 100% recycled polypropylene in carpets will result in a 100% reduction in fossil sources as a feedstock for this application.

◾  Decrease in CO2 emissions.  Compared to virgin polypropylene manufactured from oil, or waste-to-energy as a disposal method for end of life polypropylene carpets, ISOPREP will result in CO2 emissions being reduced.

◾  Reduction of plastic landfill waste.  The ISOPREP project feedstock is composed of plastic waste and therefore end-of-life polypropylene products will be recycled rather than ending in landfills.

◾  Development of learning resources and expansion in the sustainable industry sector.  ISOPREP will result in extensive cross-cutting across multiple sectors and will involve the training of employees in sustainable technologies.