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Plastics

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MBA Polymers plastics recycling facility in Amstetten

Source of recycled plastics

In total, about 20,000 t of plastics are recovered from waste electrical and electronic equipment in Austria each year. The resulting mass of about 8,000 t of sorted plastics is equivalent to the mass of about 1.6 million garden chairs, for example.
The remaining plastics are thermally processed, meaning that the mixed plastics are processed into secondary fuels. The energy from the thermally processed plastics, with a mass of about 12,000 tonnes, is equivalent to the annual power consumption of about 18,500 homes – about the amount of power used by private homes in the Austrian city of St. Pölten.
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 4.967 25,4
Small appliances and devices 8.802 44,9
Display devices 3.414 17,4
Refrigerators and freezers 1.869 9,5
Vehicle batteries 545 2,8
Total 19.597 100,00

Recycling processes for plastics

The plastics portion is recovered from the collection and processing categories for large appliances, small appliances and devices, refrigerators and freezers, display devices, and vehicle batteries.
In the recycling process, the devices collected in these categories are broken down into small pieces. The ferrous and non-ferrous metals are separated out and reused as valuable secondary raw materials.

Collection categories from which the 20,000 t of plastics are recovered

Cutting-edge technologies can be used to extract another 40% of separated plastics from the plastic-rich remainder (e.g. by MBA Polymers in Amstetten). Once separated, these plastics can be melted down again and processed into new products.

Recycling plastics from waste electrical and electronic equipment is a labour-intensive process because of the many different types of plastic contained in the equipment. The most common of these are ABS (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene copolymer), PS (polystyrene), PE (polyethylene), PP (polypropylene) and PVC (polyvinyl chloride).

The remaining plastics are thermally processed, meaning that the mixed plastics are processed into secondary fuels. These high-quality secondary fuels largely replace imported fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas in industrial processes, e.g. in cement and fibre production (video).