LIFE CIRC-ELV: PUTTING LIFE BACK INTO PLASTICS FROM ELVs

Auto Recycling World DEC 2021 / by Vicente Vert Belenguer / Read original article

Good pre-sorting of waste, especially plastic waste, has great potential to subsequently produce more and purer recyclates and thus increase the recycling rate.

The End-of-Life Vehicle (ELV) Directive (DIRECTIVE 2000/53/EC) has been under revision since 2020. A new, reviewed text is expected to be ready by the end of 2022. Some reports were produced in 2020 to evaluate the ELV Directive. Different surveys and open consultations were distributed in 2021 to define the new text. These documents included a common recommendation to dedicate more effort to increasing the recycling of materials besides metals from ELVs. This is due to the fact that the presence of plastics in ELVs is expected to continue increasing in the coming years.

This European concern about recovering and recycling plastic was reinforced by the establishment of the Circular Plastics Alliance (CPA), which has set the target of recycling 10 million tonnes of plastics from different sectors, including the automotive industry, as well as construction, packaging, agriculture and electric/electronics. A dedicated working group for the automotive industry has been working hard to provide insights into recycled plastics based on the source (ELVs) and the destination (automotive parts) of these recycled plastics. Public papers released by the CPA suggest using similar approaches. The fact is that recovering plastics from ELVs is crucial because the amount of plastic content in end-of-life vehicles is steadily increasing.

The LIFE CIRC-ELV Project (Boosting Circular Economy of Plastics from End-of-Life Vehicles through Recycling into High Added-Value Applications) started in 2018 with the aim of creating a techno-economically feasible process for recovering selected plastics from ELVs at the authorized treatment facility (ATF) stage. Specific targets included bumpers made of polypropylene (PP) and fuel tanks made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE). This European LIFE project was planned and started years before the ELV Directive was reviewed and the CPA was created. Now, in 2021, the objective of the LIFE CIRC-ELV Project has once again become a hot topic.

Great effort was previously spent sorting mixed types of plastics in the final steps of the ELV waste management process. After the depollution of ELVs at ATFs, plastics could still be found in the depolluted hulk. The hulk was then shredded, and metals were recovered. Finally, any plastics ended up mixed into the remaining automotive shredder residue (ASR). Post-shredder technologies (PST) were then used to recover each type of plastic from the mixture.

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