Today, factories produce millions of tons of products every day, from simple bottle caps to complex compact computers. The increase in production usually goes hand in hand with one of the great problems that industries have today: the generation of waste. The answer is simple, and it is to focus production towards the circular economy. However, we know that this can become very complex depending on what products are manufactured. For this reason, in this blog we are going to focus on one of the most initial stages of the circular economy, such as the reuse of waste generated during the manufacture of products, and more specifically, plastic waste.

Reuse of plastic by-products

The reuse of waste or plastic by-products produced during the manufacturing process consists of treating these materials and incorporating them back into the production process. In this way, we manage to manage our waste while obtaining more raw material to work with.

A clear example of these residues are, for example, the burrs obtained after machining processes, or the leftover material after injection processes. These residues are a small percentage of the material used but, in industries where it is manufactured intensively, it can reach a very high volume.

How is the reuse of plastic waste achieved?

In order to reuse these plastics, the first thing to do is separate them. Each plastic has different properties, and if we want to obtain good properties, we must treat them separately. Therefore, if our production process generates plastic waste, a good way to start is by collecting said waste without mixing. Once we have collected the plastic waste separately, the next step is to carry out a crushing and grinding process to transform it into powder or pellets. Once the size of the plastic parts has been sufficiently reduced, they can be used again in the production process by using them in injection machines or extruders.

It must be taken into account that, usually, the quality of reused plastics is not the same as that of the original material. This is due to the fact that plastics gradually suffer thermal degradation due to injection and extrusion processes, where temperatures rise considerably. Therefore, it is convenient to incorporate this reused plastic mixed with original plastic, to achieve the same or very similar properties to the original parts. Depending on the type of plastic, the percentage of reused material may be higher or lower.

Benefits of reusing plastic waste

The reuse of this plastic waste in the manufacturing plants themselves is very important.

Through reuse, it is possible to convert a waste into a base material, so there is no longer a need for a third party to manage this type of waste. In addition, the amount of source material needed to carry out production decreases.

Additionally, if plastic waste is collected separately at source, it is possible to reduce the energy required for its reuse.

Steps to carry out a plastic waste reuse project

At ATRIA we have carried out various circular economy projects focused on the reuse of plastic waste. Next, we give you the steps to carry out this type of project:

  1. Case study, where the different types of plastic are identified
  2. Adequacy of the material until obtaining dust or granules.
  3. Realization of proofs of concept or prototypes by means of injection or extrusion, using mixtures of different percentages of recycled material and original material.
  4. Perform mechanical, thermal tests, or the test type required by the client to verify that the properties of the material obtained are adequate.
  5. Depending on the final product obtained, search for clients or partners with whom to work.

With these simple steps, our customers are able to find out if their material can be reused in their production process and what is the optimal percentage of use for their production.

Do you want help with your circular economy project? Contact us!

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