Canadian Plastics

Recycling moves up-scale

Market volatility and uncertainty are facts of life for all plastics recyclers. The closure of Resource Plastics Brantford, Ont.-based recycling plant early this year is testimony to that volatility. ...

October 1, 1999   By Michael LeGault, editor



Market volatility and uncertainty are facts of life for all plastics recyclers. The closure of Resource Plastics Brantford, Ont.-based recycling plant early this year is testimony to that volatility. Yet, despite the adverse economic conditions and the general doom-and-gloom outlook that seems to pervade the recycling market, recycling, in some form, is a way of life for almost every plastics processor and new applications for resins and products made of recycled content continue to grow.

GOOD PROPERTIES, LOWER COST TPE

NRI Industries’ (Toronto) Symar-T is a thermoplastic elastomer that contains up to 50 percent post-consumer rubber, otherwise known as recycled tire crumb. The result, says market development manager Paul Grnthal, is a product with desirable performance properties of rubber combined with the processing advantages of plastic.

Grnthal says Symar-T is designed to be processed on standard equipment for extrusion, injection molding, blow molding and thermoforming, while affording a cost savings of 40 to 50 percent, in comparison to virgin TPE grades such as Santoprene.

“Our Symar-T-200 grade costs in the range of 80 cents to one dollar a pound, whereas many off-the-shelf standard TPEs run double that price,” says Grnthal.

In general, Symar-T materials are suitable for a range of transportation, industrial, consumer and household applications. Typical auto applications are in air and water management systems, says Grnthal. The material is also useful for applications in which sound dampening is required

The various grades of Symar-T differ in recycled content, hardness and other properties. Symar-T-100 contains about 25 percent recycled rubber and has a Shore A hardness of 60. It is currently being used in the Chrysler Neon to make a flexible boot within a metal frame to guide and protect wire harnesses. Symar-T-200 is a flexible, 90 Shore A hardness material consisting of 50 percent recycled rubber. The 200 grade is currently being used to injection mold air deflectors and splash guards for a number of automotive companies.

“With the 200 grade, it’s flexible enough to bend, but pops back into shape, which makes it easier to use on the assembly line,” notes Grnthal.

Symer-T’s good cold weather impact resistance makes it a candidate for fender applications in recreational vehicles, snowmobiles and ATV’s, says Grnthal. Currently, the company is close to commercializing thermoformable sheet and extrusion grades of the product. The thermoformbale grade is being targeted for applications such as automotive belly pans, and the extrusion grades of Symar are being designed to replace EPDM and other higher-end TPEs in automotive window channels.

“We’ll partner with processors to help them develop suitable material for their processes,” Grnthal says, noting NRI is currently working with companies in Barrie and Montreal on several projects.

THE RECYCLED CAR

Facing up to a number of political, legislative and market realities, virtually all the major automotive OEMs have announced intentions, and in some cases concrete plans, to increase the amounts of recycled plastic in their vehicles. The result so far has been a mish-mash of broad, ambitious initiatives and piece-meal part buying that is incrementally increasing the amount of recycled plastics in today’s car lines.

“Many companies are talking the talk but not walking the walk, quite honestly,” says Joe Klein, director of marketing, with Ferro Corporation, based in Evansville, IN.

Ferro makes filled and reinforced polypropylene compounds containing at least 25 percent post-consumer recycled (PCR) material. Ferro buys post-consumer PP from recyclers in flake form and uses it to compound specific grades of PCR-containing material. The company has over 2000 commercially available compounds.

Ferro’s 25 percent PCR compounds typically contain varying amounts of talc, glass and mineral fillers which provide desirable, application-specific properties. For instance grade HPP30GR20Bk is a 30 percent glass/mineral filled PP used to injection mold a structural duct going into Ford’s F150 truck. The part, which won an SPE Automotive Division design award in 1998, consists of two-large parts that are welded together, and resulted in a 16 percent cost savings in comparison to the previous duct built of ABS, Klein notes.

An integrated truck battery air cool box, which also won an SPE automotive design award, is made from Ferro’s RPP30EA18BK grade, a 30 percent glass-reinforced PP which exceeds heat resistance and abuse requirements. The part, notes Klein, is the first part to incorporate battery support and air-cooling of the battery in a diesel engine compartment, while reducing 17 parts to six and reducing truck weight by three pounds.

Other automotive applications for Ferro’s 25 percent PCR compounds include a contoured headlamp housing, off-engine air cleaner, glove box bin, brackets, HVAC blower housing and others. As for the state of recycled material use in the automotive market, Klein doesn’t mince his words.

“Ford is about five years ahead of everyone else when it comes to using recycled materials like ours. With the state of the resin market the last few years, it costs a little more to buy PCR material compared to virgin resin. Some of the other auto companies are saying we want to use a PCR product, but we don’t want to pay any more for it.”

EVERYTHING FROM POSTS TO

COMPUTERS

A technology partnership between the Alberta Research Council and Amity Plastics is turning recycled polyethylene oil jugs and herbicide containers into highway guardrail posts. Amity Plastics, a recycler based in Clyde, Alberta, saw the opportunity to use its own raw material to make the posts and sought the technical expertise of the ARC to get the idea off the ground. The ARC assisted Amity in getting the thermal/pressing processing technology used to make the posts operational. The posts are made by baking the recycled PE in a mold for 14 hours at 370F. After the bake cycle, a lid is secured to the mold and the mold is placed into a cooling tank.

“The key environmental advantage is that the posts use up material that would otherwise go to landfills,” notes Dwight Smith-Gander, president, Amity Plastics. “The plastic posts will last longer than wooden posts because they are not susceptible to fungal rot.”

Smith-Gander says the process can be used to make other products such as ornamental posts, curbs and planters. Amity has licensed the plastics recycling process developed by the ARC. Amity has so far produced about 3000 of the guardrail posts. Alberta Transportation and Utilities will be testing the 1.5 metre posts on provincial highways. Test report results are due out this fall.

RTICA (pronounced artica) is Inzeco Holdings Inc.’s brand name for its new line of high performance insulating materials made from recycled PET. Company literature describes RTICA as a non-irritating, fibrous material designed to compete with materials such as urethane foams and glass-fibre insulation in thermal and acoustical applications in construction and manufacturing. RTICA can be supplied as flexible batts, stiff boards or defined shapes and requires no special handling or worker protection measures, according to the company.

Inzeco (Etobicoke, Ont.) purchased the technology to make insulation materials from recycled PET in 1997 from E2 Development Corp. and has been making development quantities from a pilot production facility in New Hampshire. Inzeco states that RTICA is competitive with insulation in all categories above R value of 3.7 per in. It is this high-performance end, where R values exceed 4, that is the fastest growing segment for insulation. The company is currently securing funding for a full-scale commercial plant it hopes to have in operation in 2000.

IBM has reported the reuse of 675,000 lb. of PVC, ABS and PC/ABS resins retrieved from discarded computers in 1998. In electronics, resin reuse is growing as new applications for recyclate continue to emerge. For example, IBM has recently launched its model 689
3 Intellistation E Pro desktop computer, which is said to be the first computer in which the 3.5-lb. main housing is made completely of 100 percent recycled PC/ABS.

DSM Engineering Plastics has announced plans to produce a new family of nylon 6 products based on post-consumer recylate. The new compounds have been registered under the trade name Akulon Renew. Twenty-five percent of the nylon 6 used in Akulon compounds will be made from caprolactam produced from post-consumer recylate at DSM’s Evergreen Nylon Recycling plant currently under construction in Augusta, GA.

Initial grades of the product will include standard unreinforced, glass-reinforced and glass/mineral compounds aimed at injection molding markets for automotive and consumer durables. DSM claims Akulon products will have properties and pricing similar to virgin nylon grades. According to DSM, Akulon will be available in a wide array of colors and formulations. By contrast, the company states, nylon based on recycled post-industrial fibre waste which is remelted and blended into compounds, does not normally meet the quality standards for virgin nylon, and is usually not offered in colored grades. CPL


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