In a modern, low-carbon, resource and energy-efficient economy every effort must be made to avoid waste of resources. That's exactly why the collaborative EPS industry started PolyStyreneLoop. It is a new recycling process for polystyrene (PS) foam that can be used for both expanded polystyrene (EPS) and extruded polystyrene (XPS). For this purpose, a demonstration plant is being built in the Netherlands. The primary aim is to recycle insulation materials that contain the imbedded flame retardant HBCD (which is no longer used in Europe since 2016). LCA analysis by TÜV Rheinland proved that environmental impact of this process is roughly 50 % lower than incineration with energy recovery.
CreaSolv® Technology and Bromine Recovery Unit (BRU)
The CreaSolv® Technology is a development of Fraunhofer Institute in corporation with CreaCycle GmbH. Plastic wastes are selectively dissolved with a specific proprietary solvent formulation. The components of the CreaSolv® Formulation are fully REACH registered and not hazardous according to the Globally Harmonized System (GHS). The dissolution is a physico-chemical separation process. It is a pre-treatment technology, which has the potential to recover plastic molecules and separate them from additives like HBCD (or other impurities), while recovering the bromine.
The process consists of three steps. Steps 1 and 2 are pre-treatment for step 3.
- PS foam waste is dissolved in tanks containing a PS-specific liquid. The solid impurities (dirt, cement and the like) are separated through filtration and then incinerated.
- Another liquid is added, which transforms the PS into a gel, while the additive (HBCD) stays in the remaining liquid. The PS gel is then separated from the process liquids. Once cleaned, this gel is transferred into granulated polymer and the liquid, together with the additive, is distilled and re-used in a closed loop; the additives remain as sludge.
- Finally the HBCD additive within the sludge is destructed in a high temperature incineration process. During this last step the elemental bromine is recovered and can be reused to produce new products (e.g. modern flame retardants), thereby closing the loop.
PolyStyreneLoop demonstration plant in the Netherlands
An industrial scale plant (with the capability to handle 3.3 kt of PS insulation foam waste per year) in Terneuzen shall demonstrate the technical, economic and environmental feasibility of a physico-chemical recycling process. It is seen as an opportunity to roll out a system where PS foams containing HBCD can be handled as part of the circular economy. The plant shall be operational in 2020.