E-Scrap News reports a new initiative in Europe that will work to overcome obstacles to the closed-loop recycling of plastics from electronics and appliances. Named ‘The Post-Consumer High-Tech Recycled Polymers for a Circular Economy (PolyCE)’, the project will undertake various activities to strengthen the recovery of plastics from waste electronics and electronic equipment (WEEE).
Despite e-plastics still considered a negative or negligible value for many electronics recycling companies, the waste makes up a very substantial portion of the composition of the end-of-life stream. In an overview project summary, PolyCE will “…improve the collection and recycling of WEEE plastics” to help further individual efforts. “The plastics value chain is still too fragmented and WEEE recycled plastics seem unattractive material for the end-user,” the project summary states. “To shift towards circular economy a systematic transformation is required, involving all actors in the value chain and encompassing the entire lifecycle of plastic materials.”
And why exactly is e-plastic recycling important? Responsible e-plastic recycling will decrease the risk of contamination with hazardous substances due to uncertainty in the quality of recycling plastics. Acts to properly extract plastics from e-waste will also provide transparency in the market and address information gaps regarding availability and specification of PCR plastics. Furthermore, the project will help address the limited end-user acceptance of products with recycled content and the missing market incentives for the players in the recycling chain by putting in place processes for a high-quality material recovery.
Aiming to create a harmonized set of technical requirements addressing the entire value chain, PolyCE will create a recycled e-plastics grading system, which recovered plastics getting a grade based on their material properties and which final application they’re suitable for.
At the same time, electronics companies partnering in the project will demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility, as well as environmental benefits, of using recovered e-plastics. PolyCE will provide guidelines for designing electronics and appliances with recycled plastics.
To scale up the project, PolyCE will support European Union-wide awareness campaigns and work to involve cities and their procurement initiatives, according to the project summary. The project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under Grant Agreement No. 730308.
Participating in the project are 20 government, nonprofit and for-profit organizations from nearly a dozen countries. UL Environment recently announced it has been selected to join the project based on its past work on incorporating recovered e-plastics in the Dell OptiPlex computer. Coordinated by the German research institute Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, PolyCE has a total budget of 9.45 million euros (which is the equivalent to about 11.12 million USD), of which the EU is funding 88 percent of the cost.