Cutting-edge technology and commitment to the Circular Economy principles

As described by the European Commission, “in a circular economy, the value of products and materials is maintained for as long as possible. Waste and resource use are minimised, and when a product reaches the end of its life, it is used again to create further value”. The model entails (almost) closed loops for materials and therefore aspects such as recyclability and reusability are key for its success.

The circular economy has deep implications. It is not just changing the way we produce and treat waste, but also the way we consume. In order to achieve such a far reaching transition, the collaboration of public powers, industry and citizens is needed. We all do have a role to play in adapting to a model that promises a far more sustainable future.

Flame retardants are mostly used in plastics, which is a high performing, versatile and efficient material. Plastics recycling is currently being improved as part of European society’s efforts to reach a circular economy. Our industry has worked and will continue to work to identify the recyclability gaps and communicate them across the value chain, as well as on providing the necessary information on our chemicals to facilitate recycling.

Beyond identifying gaps and providing information, the flame retardant industry is also cooperating with the value chain and with independent researchers to develop technologies that allow the separation of certain flame retardants from the polymeric matrix (the plastic) at the end of life and to recover some of the valuable chemical elements.

Additionally, the flame retardants industry is working to deal with the so-called “legacy substances” (substances that were on the market years ago but which have been phased out due to their incompatible environmental profile). A key cooperative effort in this sense is the PS Loop, a project co-funded by the European Commission, which uses cutting edge technology to extract HBCD  from discarded construction insulation polystyrene,  so that both the polystyrene and the bromine can be safely recycled/ reused. Another example is the CloseWEEE project allowing the removal of brominated flame retardants and antimony (a Critical Raw Material) from styrenic polymers used in electric and electronic equipment. This project was also supported by the EU through the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, and next year it will expand to start covering other polymers.

PS Loop in detail

PolyStyreneLoop (PS Loop) is developing an elegant solution with a physical recycling process, based on the CreaSolv® Technology. The applied technology turns PS foam waste into new high-quality raw material. During the recycling process, all kinds of impurities, such as cement or other construction residues, as well as the flame retardant HBCD are safely removed and destroyed, while the valuable bromine component is recovered.

Flame Retardants Europe has been a contributor to this project since day one, which has also attracted the support of the European Union’s LIFE Grant. The technology and processes developed in PS loop will pave the way to deal with other chemicals and polymers.