Smart additives target recycling of painted parts

Ambitious plastic recycling targets of 50% have been set by the European plastics industry, and to meet these targets, smart solutions to enable the circular use of textile and plastic parts incorporating multi-layer coatings must be considered. Devan Chemicals, a supplier of finishing chemicals to the textile industry, has joined the Decoat consortium that plans to address the recycling of coated and painted textile and plastic materials led by Belgian R&D center Centexbel.

The Decoat project targets removal of paints and coatings from plastic parts and textiles to render them recyclable.

The consortium plans to investigate triggerable smart polymer material systems and appropriate recycling processes. The solutions will be based on smart additives, such as microcapsules and microwave-triggered additives, that will enable the efficient removal of coatings and other finishes, activated by a specific trigger, such as heat, humidity, microwaves, or a chemical, in order to permit recycling.

Devan’s specific role is in the development of microcapsules that will release their active cores upon application of a certain trigger (e.g. heat) at the end of life of the article. This active core material may be something that, for example, will promote the detachment of different coating layers (by separating them), opening the possibility for recyclability/re-use of the base materials. Different active core ingredients will be evaluated, and Devan will develop processes.

The aim of the four-year project is to decrease landfill by 75% of coated articles that are presently difficult to recycle, such as clothing, electronic goods, and automotive components. A reduction in the carbon footprint by at least 30% for these products is targeted. By enabling the recycling of such materials, Decoat is expected to generate in the medium term a new market valued at over €150 million ($170 million) in Europe.

The EU-funded project held a kick-off meeting on 20-21 February 2019 at the EU Commission in Brussels, Belgium. The project consortium consists of 17 European partners from across the value chain including design, manufacturing, NGOs, and research and innovation. They include Spain’s Aimplas, Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute, Spain’s Maier (a supplier of decorated auto parts), and Panasonic’s Turkish affiliate.

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