PIN FRs are the future for plastics recycliFlame ng as they avoid halogens or antimony in tomorrow’s waste and recycling
Esther Agyeman-Budu, pinfa Manager at Cefic, and Adrian Beard, pinfa Chairperson (Clariant), outlined EU policies and challenges for plastics recycling, and implications for flame retardants. The EU Plastics Strategy (2018) states that 250 million tonnes per year of plastics are produced in Europe, but only one fifth are today recycled. The EU has fixed a recycling objective of 65% of plastic in municipal waste by 2030, but the objective for WEEE recycling (waste electronic and electrical equipment) is higher: 65% of equipment placed on the market and 85% of end-of-life WEEE. An important obstacle to recycling is cost, of collection logistics and reprocessing, often more expensive than virgin plastic.
To ensure that flame retardants, and other plastic additives, do not become obstacles to recycling, FRs should be compatible with recycling processes, and importantly must be safe for health and the environment, in order to ensure that their presence in future generations of recycled materials is accepted. Sustainability assessments can support such design for recycling, including independent labels such as TCO, which has a “white list” of accepted (all PIN) flame retardants (see pinfa Newsletter n°123).
Plastics recycling will necessitate collaboration throughout the value chain and a range of solutions including mechanical recycling, innovative sorting supported by design-for-dismantling and material identification and tracking, new additives and formulations to improve performance of recyclates, and chemical recycling for difficult-to-separate mixed materials. Flame retardants are only one factor impacting plastics recycling, along with polymer selection and other plastics additives. pinfa has carried out intensive testing of mechanical recycling of PIN FR plastics (see pinfa Newsletter n°105) and will cooperate with the value chain to support plastics recycling.
In discussion with conference delegates online, the challenge of information on additives in plastics was raised. pinfa suggested that transparency and tracking of additives in plastic parts should be ensured, but without revealing precise formulations which is commercially confidential information.