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Recycling of plastics

Source of recycled plastics

In total, about 19,000 t of plastics are recovered from waste electrical and electronic equipment in Austria each year. It is primarily recovered from WEEE, with a small amount also coming from vehicle batteries. Using state-of-the-art sorting technology – such as near-infrared spectroscopy – it is possible to produce unmixed plastics again (see mgg-polymers.com).

Further information:

These unmixed plastics can be remelted and processed into new products. The sorted recovered mass of plastics of about 19,000 t corresponds e.g. a mass of around 3.8 million simple garden armchairs. Due to the ever increasing proportion of plastics in electrical appliances, the recycling of these devices is becoming increasingly important.

The graph below provides an overview of how much plastic is recycled from each of the five collection and processing categories for the collection of waste electrical and electronic equipment.

 

 
Plastics Mass [t] Proportion [%]
Large electrical appliances 2.819 14,82
Small appliances and devices 10.122 53,22
Display devices 2.935 15,43
Refrigerators and freezers 2.351 12,36
Vehicle batteries 794 4,17
Total 19.020 100,00

Source of recovered plastics (2017 data)

Source of recovered plastics (2017 data)

 

Recycling processes for plastics

Recycled plastics (© MBA Polymers, Kematen, 2018)

Only five to ten percent of plastics from WEEE are contaminated with banned brominated flame retardants. These contaminated plastics must be sorted out and sent for thermal utilization or treatment. The 90 to 95 percent of non-polluted plastics from WEEE can be returned to the recycling cycle.

The plastics group is being reclaimed from the categories of bulk and small electrical household appliances, refrigerators and screens, and from vehicle batteries.

In the course of recycling, the collected devices of these categories are crushed. The ferrous and non-ferrous metals are separated and reused as valuable secondary raw materials.

From the plastic-rich residual fraction, it is possible to recycle pure plastics as secondary raw materials by using state-of-the-art sensor-based sorting technologies (for example, MGG Polymers, Amstetten, mgg-polymers.com). These unmixed plastics can be remelted and processed into new products.

Plastics recycling from old electrical appliances is therefore so expensive, since there are many different plastics in the devices. The most common are ABS (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene copolymer), PS (polystyrene), PE (polyethylene), PP (polypropylene) and PVC
(polyvinyl chloride).