Plastic bottles refined into hinges and latches for enclosures
Recycling of plastic packaging is moving into the next phase, with recycled material being processed into technical plastics for industrial use. Ensto is one of the first manufacturers to begin using this recycled raw material, which has passed tough tests by the automotive industry.
‘Our normal production practices include minimizing material losses and recycling excess materials. Now, we are taking a step further by introducing recycled raw materials into production’, comments Kimmo Meriluoto, Director, Product Development & Management at Ensto Industrial Solutions.
PET plastic from plastic bottles and packaging is being used to produce PBT-plastic granules needed for die-casting. Some 65% of this raw material, which has been awarded for its eco-friendliness, comes from recycling. Carbon dioxide emissions from the manufacturing process are only one quarter of the normal level.
‘This is the first granule containing recycled material that meets our specifications for industrial use. In fact, this is not a case of recycling but of upcycling. Upcycling involves improving the properties of recycled plastic packaging, to meet the standards required for technical plastics’, describes Meriluoto.
In Finland, disposable plastic bottles, for which the deposit is refunded, find their way into automated bottle recycling machines. These crush the bottles for recycling purposes. In other countries, the scope of separate collection schemes varies, with some bottles ending up in mixed waste. However, as plastic bottles become an increasingly important raw material, recycling will become more efficient.
For every hundred kilograms of recycled raw material, as much as 87 kilograms of plastic bottles may be saved from ending up in landfills or incineration. This replaces 55–75% of the fossil fuel that would otherwise be used for manufacturing plastic. Greenhouse gas emissions are reduced to the same extent.
Production technology for recycled raw material has advanced to the stage where its die-casting properties, and the quality of the final product, are either as good as, or even exceed, the normal standard. Whatever the case, lifecycle calculations show that the environmental load is only one half that of corresponding raw materials.
This combination opens up new opportunities to companies who recognize the importance of environmental values, and to industries expected to produce environment-friendly end products. The automotive industry has already begun using the new raw material. Other industries, e.g. electronics and furniture, will follow suit.
Ensto will begin by introducing eco-friendly raw materials in the plastic parts of enclosures, such as hinges and latches. An enclosure is a good example of a product that needs to withstand not just mechanical stress and impacts, but also water, ice, snow and frost, as well as scorching sun and stifling heat. Outdoor conditions on radio towers, for instance, are much harsher than in homes and offices, where recycled products have so far been used.
‘Both we and our clients need our products to be high quality and eco-friendly, while also promoting sustainable development. Enclosures extend the usable life of plastic bottles by a minimum of 20 years – a remarkable pro-environmental achievement. We are ready to rapidly extend the use of recycled raw material to all suitable products and components’, explains Kimmo Meriluoto.
Text: Kari Heikkilä, Radiant Consulting Oy