Technological Centre

CETIM coordinates an industrial project to research disruptive plastics recycling technologies and obtain secondary raw materials

Led by TÉCNICAS REUNIDAS and with CETIM as scientific coordinator, ECLIPSE will research new technological routes for the revaluation of complex polymeric waste (plastics) to bring to market secondary raw materials with high added value obtained from waste.

Recycled polymers from end-of-life vehicles will first be tested in the manufacture of different automotive components, such as seats, with up to 25% of recovered material in each part.

The massive implementation of these new technologies in place of incineration or landfill would reduce 75% of the current carbon footprint, some 3 million tons of CO2.

The ECLIPSE consortium is made up of seven other driving companies which cover the whole recycling value chain: ACTECO, PICVISA, REPSOL, CELLMAT TECHNOLOGIES, GRUPO COPO, SYNTHESIA and SEAT.

ECLIPSE has a budget of more than 7M€ and has been subsidized by the Center for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI) within the competitive call MISIONES 2021.

Plastic production exponential increase during the recent decades (from 2 to 370 million tons per year) is accompanied by a negative aspect – and widely known – as is the parallel increase of this type of waste that ends up polluting the environment and, in particular, the sea. According to the pan-European association of plastics producers Plastics Europe, on our continent, of the 57.9 Mt produced in 2019, just over half (29.5 Mt) was collected and of this amount, only 34.6% was recycled. The remaining 42% was incinerated for energy recovery and the other 23.4% ended up in landfills.

Another benchmark organization in the sustainability sector, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, has highlighted this problem in its publications, as well as an opportunity for improvement. The low recycling rates, the British foundation points out, lead to losses of between 80 and 120 billion dollars a year due to the presence of residues of complex polymeric materials in plastics (such as multi-materials and mixtures with reinforcements or heavy metals, etc.) that are sent for recycling but are not used.

In addition, the most commonly used sorting and separation technologies, due to their economic feasibility and simplicity, together with the limited chemical compatibility of the polymers, also pose significant obstacles to the recovery of these complex plastics.

In general, a great potential for obtaining secondary raw materials from these wastes is wasted, which would make it possible to reduce the use of natural resources and the pollution generated by landfills.

Technical potential to be exploited
In this context, ECLIPSE industrial research project was conceived, with a budget of more than €7M and subsidized by the Center for the Development of Industrial Technology (CDTI) within the competitive call MISIONES 2021. This program is aimed at financing large strategic business R&D initiatives that propose solutions to cross-cutting and strategic challenges for Spanish society. The aid granted to the project is also financed by the European Union through the Next GenerationEU Fund.

Over the next four years, the consortium led by the engineering company TÉCNICAS REUNIDAS with CETIM Technological Centre in the technical coordination of the project and as scientific support, wants to respond to the challenge of researching more efficient disruptive technologies for recycling complex polymeric waste, alternatives to conventional mechanical treatment.

Until 2024, in different phases, new methods of separation, recycling (thermal, chemical and biological), purification and chemical synthesis will be investigated to obtain secondary raw materials from discarded plastic.

The recycled polymers from end-of-life vehicles will be tested, first of all, in the manufacture of different automotive components, such as seats, with up to 25% of recycled material in each part.

In general, the objective is to contribute to the improvement of environmental sustainability thanks to the increase in the levels of valorization and recovery of complex plastic waste by up to 80% and to the reduction of 75% of the carbon footprint, some 3 million tons of CO2, with the massive implementation of these new recycling methods as a substitute for incineration or landfilling of discarded plastics.

Leading consortium
The ECLIPSE industrial consortium is made up of 8 companies with different profiles that cover the entire value chain of the recycling sector. Together with TÉCNICAS REUNIDAS there are ACTECO, PICVISA, REPSOL, CELLMAT TECHNOLOGIES, GRUPO COPO, SYNTHESIA and SEAT. Specifically, this will be the role of each of them:

TÉCNICAS REUNIDAS, as the leader of the proposal and the largest engineering company in Spain specialized in the development of advanced technologies for industrial processes, will investigate thermal recycling processes and insulation and purification techniques for recycling extracts.

ACTECO, with extensive experience in waste management and treatment, will be in charge of the activities of evaluation of fluff waste (light fraction of shredder waste) and validation of identification and separation processes. It will also carry out research on chemical recycling processes.

PICVISA, a technology company specializing in the manufacture of automated optical separation equipment, will study new processes for sorting and recycling plastics from end-of-life vehicles, using advanced mechanical and robotic automation techniques.

REPSOL, being an energy multinational with a well-defined circular economy strategy, will investigate novel processes for the biological recycling of polymers.

CELLMAT TECHNOLOGIES, thanks to its knowledge and capacity for the synthesis of new polyolefin materials and polymer recycling, will base its research on polyolefin chemical recycling technologies and new synthesis routes, as well as the development of recycled thermoplastic formulations.

GRUPO COPO, a leading company in the manufacture of interior components for the automotive sector, will seek to increase the overall efficiency of the process through the treatment and revaluation of industrial surpluses and will research the processes of molding and manufacturing of polyurethane formulated components and the use of polyolefins.

SYNTHESIA, a specialist in the manufacture of polyurethanes and their derivatives, will be in charge of the activities related both to the chemical recycling of the polyurethane fraction and to the synthesis of reagents for polyurethane formulations.

SEAT, a leader in the automotive sector, will focus on improving the eco-design and recyclability of the plastic parts of its vehicles in order to optimize end-of-life recycling, thus contributing to the circularity of the sector.

Scientific-technological support
On the scientific side, CETIM, which has been the driving force behind the proposal from the beginning, will carry out an analysis and characterization of complex plastic waste and will support the partners in the eco-design of technological recycling routes.

Thus, it will collaborate in the research of thermal, chemical and biological recycling technologies and their subsequent optimization and possible synergistic combinations; as well as in the synthesis of chemical specialties and polymer formulations. It will also carry out proof-of-concept testing and technical, economic and environmental analysis of the technologies and products finally proposed.

In addition to CETIM, ECLIPSE has the cooperation of 7 other research organizations: the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV), the University of Zaragoza (UNIZAR); the LEITAT Technological Centre, the University of Valladolid (UVA); the Chemical Institute of Sarriá (IQS), the Galician Automotive Technological Centre (CTAG) and the National Supercomputing Centre (BSC) in Spain.