Mechanical recycling demo plant opens in Germany

High-speed sorting at the demonstration plant.

Tomra and Borealis have started operations at their advanced mechanical recycling demo plant in Lahnstein, Germany. Borealis produces advanced and circular polyolefin solutions along with base chemicals, fertilizers and the provides mechanical plastics recycling.

The purpose of this demonstration plant is to generate material that will be tested by brand owners and converters to see if it can be used in their applications. Once it has proved successful the companies plan to develop a commercial-scale advanced recycling plant.

The plant processes both rigid and flexible plastic waste from households. It is producing high quality polymers needed for applications in various industries, including automotive and consumer products. With high purity, low odour, high product consistency and light colour fractions, these Borcycle M grade recycled polymers will meet customer quality requirements across the value chain.

Big-brand customers

Customers of the demo plant’s products include Henkel and Procter & Gamble (P&G).

“At P&G we are making packaging with the ‘next life’ in mind to help drive a more robust circular economy. We must increase the supply of high quality recycled plastic to enable the industry to deliver on this vision,” said Gian De Belder, P&G technical director, R&D packaging sustainability.

“The innovative new approach that Tomra and Borealis are taking shows potential to step-change both the quantity and quality of PCR available for our brands. Early tests of the material looks very promising!”

P&G plans to reduce its use of virgin plastic in packaging by 50 percent, or 300 kilotonnes annually by 2030.

Henkel aims to reduce its use of fossil-based virgin plastic to 50 percent by 2025, partly by increasing the share of recycled plastics to more than 30 percent globally.

“One major challenge towards more circular packaging is the availability of high-quality recycled plastics that can be used in the packaging of our brands,” said Thorsten Leopold, director international packaging technology home care at Henkel.

Joint enterprise

Operation of the plant is a joint enterprise between Tomra, Borealis and Zimmerman. Borealis is responsible for the plant’s commercial success and contributes its expertise and knowledge in innovation, recycling and compounding.

Tomra brings its expertise, established process and market knowledge in advanced collection and sorting systems. Zimmerman is a waste management company with experience in sorting multiple types of waste, including plastics, and is responsible for successful plant operations and product quality.

“This plant is just the beginning of what’s possible when key players in the value chain come together to make a truly significant impact in the market,” says Volker Rehrmann, executive vice-president and head of circular economy at Tomra.

“Having just launched the new Circular Economy Division, it is clear what a large role waste management and pivotal projects like this have on moving towards a sustainable future. We are proud to have initiated one of the most advanced mechanical recycling plants when it comes to post-consumer polymer waste.”

“This plant embodies the principles of the EverMinds platform founded by Borealis, which seeks to innovate plastics circularity through collaboration,” says Lucrèce Foufopoulos, Borealis executive vice-president polyolefins, innovation and technology and circular economy solutions.

“Offering brand owners and converters top quality recycled material, suitable for use in highly demanding applications is Borealis’ latest contribution to a more circular economy of plastics. Life demands progress, and through collaboration we re-invent for more sustainable living.”