France calls for innovative plastic recycling methods
French government wants to focus on the development of new recycling techniques. Whether chemical or biotechnological, it will allow the return to the basic monomers of plastics and the separation of additives or contaminants that disrupt current recycling. Eligible techniques in this AMI also include those that produce new raw materials by modifying the chemical structure of plastics.
The Directorate General for Enterprise (DGE) is launching a call for expressions of interest (AMI) on chemical and biotechnological recycling projects for plastics. The objective is to go further than mechanical recycling, which currently limits recycling rates.
France recycles barely 22% of its plastics. Europe has set a recycling target for plastic packaging of 50% by 2025 and 55% by 2030. The French government is more ambitious as it hopes to move towards recycling 100% of plastics by 2025. But the technologies available to recycle all plastics on the market are insufficient. 99% of it is mechanical recycling, which mainly leads to a decrease in the quality of plastics.
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To bring out new techniques
The government wants to focus on the development of new recycling techniques. This will involve helping to finance “pilots, demonstrators or recycling units”. “No restrictions are made on the technologies that could be implemented as long as they lead to the supply of recycled materials,” says this AMI.
Whether chemical or biotechnological, it allows the return to the basic monomers of plastics and the separation of additives or contaminants that disrupt current recycling. Eligible techniques in this AMI also include those that produce new raw materials by modifying the chemical structure of plastics, via “cracking, gasification or depolymerisation.” Finally, they concern selective dissolution techniques that purify polymers without degrading them.
“These processes are based on the use of chemicals (solvents), but also on thermal and catalytic treatment methods to crack, depolymerize or dissolve materials,” says AMI. Biotechnological conversion (use of enzymes) has also been the subject of R&D development in France.
In particular, the French company Carbios is focusing on the enzymatic recycling of polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The Canadian company Loop Industries is developing a process for the chemical depolymerization of the same plastic. And several companies are working on the pyrolysis of plastics to transform them into gas or fuel. This AMI is directly designed to accelerate the development of such processes.
Recycling plastics from households and businesses
The gradual extension of sorting instructions will concern all French people by 2022. In addition to the 904,000 tonnes collected for recycling in 2018, the professional federations plan to increase the collection of household plastic waste by between +28% and +45% this time. This means an increase from 150,000 to 200,000 tonnes per year in the tonnage to be recycled. “To cope with this increase, the development of chemical or biotechnological recycling techniques seems essential,” says the companies’ general management.
In addition, new recycling techniques would make it possible to treat mixed plastic waste from companies that are struggling to find a buyer following the end of Chinese exports. In 2018, plastic waste collection from companies fell by 14,000 tonnes, following a drop of 20,000 tonnes in 2017. The reason for this is the lack of competitive technical solutions to recycle these low value plastics or too technical.
The selected projects will be redirected towards existing support schemes, in particular within the framework of the Future Investment Program or the Citeo calls for projects. They can also be supported through other forms depending on the difficulties identified.
(Featured image by Merakist via Unsplash)
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First published in TECHNIQUES DE L’INGENIEUR, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.
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