About Plastic Recycling
|An SI Board Since August 2000|
Titan Technologies with its research partner Adherent Technologies has developed and is testing processes for tertiary recycling of commodity plastics, aircraft transparencies, auto shredder residue, used oil filters, composite materials and scrap electronics. The tertiary recycling process breaks down polymeric materials into a mixture of low molecular weight hydrocarbons that can be refined and reused as chemicals or fuels. A great deal of electronic scrap consists of complex mixtures of plastics, adhesives, metals, ceramics, fillers, and reinforcing fibers. When mixed together, the individual material types cannot be reclaimed for reuse, however, tertiary recycling separates the organic components from the non-organics as a gas that is subsequently condensed to liquid. Without the organics present, the metals and fibers can be reclaimed using various separation techniques. Thus, tertiary recycling is the necessary first step in recycling the complex mixtures in electronic scrap materials.
Dr. Ronald Allred, president of Adherent Technologies and Director of Titan Technologies says that “these technologies are similar to the tire recycling process and research has progressed rapidly with all of these diverse feedstock”. Both the scale of the problem poised by plastics waste and the value of the by-products that can be reclaimed present an unlimited future for Titan’s environmental technology.
Results show that the catalytic conversion process used is applicable to a wide variety of polymer based materials producing valuable hydrocarbon fractions from waste. The process is closed and thus nonpolluting and operates at low temperatures (200o C). Hydrocarbons produced may be reused as chemicals, monomers, or fuels. Metals, fibers, and fillers separated during the breakdown process may be reclaimed for reuse. Carbon fibers reclaimed from composite materials have substantial value for use in molding compounds. For complex mixtures such as electronic assemblies, this low-temperature catalytic conversion process is the necessary first step in the recycling process. After the organics are removed from the mixture, conventional separation processes may be applied to reclaim the metals, fibers and fillers, which eliminates or greatly reduces the material introduced into landfills.
Attaining value from all the materials in electronic scrap would maximize the financial return from recycling. Adherent Technologies has put together an economic model that includes costs of obtaining scrap (positive or negative), collecting, transporting, and size reducing the scrap, catalytic conversion capital and operating costs and product separation, packaging, and transport to market costs. Projections from this model show that the catalytic conversion recycling process should be highly profitable provided adequate volumes of scrap are obtained for recycling. Implementation of this recycling process on a large scale will greatly reduce the amounts of scrap electronics entering landfills that is a grave insult to the environment while conserving scarce national resources.