Technological Centre

World Recycling Day: Learn about the keys to good waste management

ECLIPSE, a project in which we participate as the main research centre, will increase the levels of recovery and recovery of complex plastic waste by up to 80%, reducing the carbon footprint by 75%.


The correct and sustainable recycling of waste has become essential in view of the large amount of materials, especially plastics, that we generate each year. According to the ‘Waste Account‘ published by the National Institute of Statistics, 115,442.8 thousand tonnes of waste were generated in Spain in 2021, 9.3% more than the previous year. 80.4% of waste was derived from industrial activity compared to 19.6% from Households. And these figures are expected to continue to increase year on year. Would this be a problem?

Rosalía Noguerol, Advanced Materials Area Manager at CETIM, explains that there would be no such problem “if the necessary technologies are developed to improve current recycling processes”. At our Technology Centre we are researching mechanical and chemical recycling processes to recover waste and contribute to the circular economy.

Mechanical recycling

Mechanical recycling consists of chopping up the material and feeding it into an extruder to make recycled pellets and then transforming them into new plastics. This process can only be applied to materials that melt when heated and harden again when cooled, such as polyethylene (PE), polyester, nylon, Teflon, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) etc. These materials are known as thermoplastics and are often used in the manufacture of pipes, automobiles, children’s toys…

Mechanical recycling equipment.

Mechanical recycling is a simple, low-cost process that we at CETIM carry out to produce new plastics from old ones and thus contribute to the circular economy. But how do we recycle the rest of the materials?

Chemical recycling

Chemical recycling complements the previous process, as it allows the processing of many more types of waste with different components and offers greater possibilities for plastics management. This is the case of thermosetting materials (polyurethane, phenol, polyester resins, epoxy resins, etc.) which cannot be recycled mechanically because they can withstand high temperatures without degrading, so they are normally deposited in landfills or incinerated. In addition, it is a material in trend due to its great utility in various sectors, such as construction, transport or even for domestic use in, for example, kitchen utensils.

At CETIM we develop technologies for chemical recycling by pyrolysis, which consists of the thermal degradation of a substance in the absence of oxygen. In other words, substances are decomposed by the application of heat into gas, liquid and solid. The gas can be used for the production of electrical and thermal energy, for the creation of synthetic feedstocks and as a biofuel. On the other hand, the liquid can be used for the manufacture of fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides, etc. Finally, the solid obtained is biochar, a carbonised product with a high carbon content of great value for the agricultural industry, construction, medicine and aesthetics, etc.

Pyrolysis chemical recycling equipment.

In addition, at CETIM we also carry out biological recycling or, in other words, the action of microorganisms or molecules to transform plastic waste into valuable resources.

Biological recycling.

Both chemical recycling technologies are being researched and optimised in the ECLIPSE project, in which we participate as the main research centre to develop new technological routes to facilitate the recycling and revaluation of complex polymeric waste from the automotive sector, as well as to perfect separation, recycling, purification and chemical synthesis techniques to obtain new polymers suitable for new uses. To this end, ECLIPSE has a consortium led by Técnicas Reunidas and formed by Acteco, Picvisa, Repsol, Cellmat Technologies, Grupo Copo, Synthesia and Seat.

Through the technical, economic and environmental analysis we carried out for ECLIPSE, we have been able to verify that the research will increase the levels of recovery and valorisation of complex plastic waste by up to 80%, reducing the carbon footprint by 75%. This is possible by transforming waste into valuable products, rather than disposing of it in landfills or allowing it to accumulate in rivers and seas.

“The use of chemical recycling is not yet implemented at the industrial level, but alliances such as ECLIPSE would be a further step towards achieving the sustainability, circularity and climate neutrality goals of the entire Spanish and European industry,” added Rosalía Noguerol.