TNO is developing ideas to improve mechanical recycling. This requires clean input streams or additional cleaning technologies in order to arrive at an end product that meets the requirements of its new usage.

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When it comes to maximum sustainability, mechanical recycling is the first method that comes into consideration. After all, this preserves all of the energy that has ever been put into plastic. The main challenge is to develop plastics for the food industry. First of all, the plastics to be recycled may contain additives that were permitted in the past but no longer are today. Secondly, what has happened to the plastics between their usage and the waste stage is unknown.

Food safety

In regard to food safety, it’s logical to opt for certainty – in other words, to recycle chemically rather than mechanically. At the same time, with a view to costs and energy, there is an enormous need for mechanical recycling, hence its close connection with the design of plastics. Instead of today’s multi-layered packaging, we’re looking for a new design that enables the development of as many of the same types of plastics as possible.

Sorting and recycling plastics

For the high-quality sorting and recycling of plastic packaging, it’s essential that contaminants, dyes and odours be removed. TNO enables this by combining mechanical recycling with the selective dissolution of substances. Using our knowledge and expertise of the various options offered by the recycling chain, we can advise our customers on making the best recycling route or product redesign choices. In addition, we conduct research into the mechanical recycling of thermoplastic composites that retains fibre length in order to reuse these for injection moulded products.

Together with partners in the Brightlands Materials Center, we create laboratory-scale configurations for the production and recycling of new packaging and composites for the automotive industry. With other partners, we also want to work on trials to improve sorting techniques and industrial implementation.


Dr. Pieter Imhof

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