Basque Country: FENIX project for obtaining quality plastic from WEEE

Kunststoffballen (Foto: Petra Hoeß, FABION Markt + Medien /

Usurbil, Basque Country — Indumetal Recycling is carrying out research into recycling the plastic fraction of more than 3,000 MT/year and thus obtaining a new, high-quality sub-product from treating Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). The FENIX project will enable reducing the main waste fraction in the WEEE recycling process and which still ends up in the rubbish dump due to its great mixture of components. This is a waste fraction with a highly heterogeneous composition, produced in the waste recycling process of electrical and electronic equipment, at the same time decontaminated and in which various processes of shredding, separation and classification are involved.

Currently, the Indumetal Recycling plant in Asúa (in the Basque province of Bizkaia) generates between 3,000 and 5,000 MT/year of this material in a grinded form of particles of less than 15mm diameter. This is a mixture of potentially recoverable materials, mainly plastics of various kinds and metal remains and which, recovered separately and with sufficient quality, can be introduced into the recycled materials market. According to the research by the consortium, led by Indumetal Recycling, this may well be the first practical solution found for this type of waste.

A novel concept of fusion and filtering

The novelty of the technology to be developed for the separation of plastic mixtures is based on a novel concept of fusion and filtering of materials according to flows and temperatures. This is a pioneering process in Europe that will thus be a relevant landmark within cleantechs applied to the management of WEEE, not only for the Basque plant, but also for its implementation as an independent line of business at an international level.

The result of this innovative process will be a plastic product (granules) based on high-quality styrenic plastics and adapted for its reincorporation into the market as a new raw material. According to data from EUSTAT (the Basque Statistics Institute) on WEEE recovery in the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country (CAPV-EAE), 6,666 MT were recycled in 2012 out of a total of 9,630 MT. Extrapolating this data, the weight of non-recycled WEEE fractions in the CAPV-EAE could reach 7,000 MT/year. With these figures and those of standard losses in the pre-treatment process, and with the new technology put forward, within three years a total of 18,900 MT could be valued. In five years, this amount could reach 31,500 MT.

The FENIX project is led by the Basque Country-based Indumetal Recycling company, in which the Basque Government is collaborating through its IHOBE public company, also involves the circular economy engineering firm ZICLA, the GAIKER-IK4 Technological Centre and the manufacturer of quality plastic pellets, ALIGOPLAST. This project is being actively supported by the Department of the Environment and Land Policy of the Basque Government, on being chosen as one of the best in the 2014 Call for Circular Economy Demonstration Projects – due to its contribution to environmental enhancement, the boost to the green economy, its eco-innovation and the collaboration of the entire chain of value in order to obtain a high-quality sub-product aimed at being re-incorporated on to the industrial market, a material that is currently waste mainly ending up in rubbish dumps.

Source: Elhuyar Fundazioa