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GAIKER-IK4 turns non-recyclable plastics into resources

Developing, in cooperation with other three Technology Centres, chemical processes to convert complex plastic waste and forest biomass waste into resources

By recycling two tonnes of used plastic we can save one tonne of crude oil while decreasing emissions and waste. However, not all the plastics that are collected can be recycled. At least until now. The fact is that the Technology Centre GAIKER-IK4 is leading a R&D project in cooperation with CARTIF, CIRCE and ITENE, aimed at looking for new chemical processes to transform the so-called "complex waste" into resources: added-value substances such as liquid fuels, gas combinations and new materials.

For example, the yellow container collects beverage and detergent containers, food trays, grocery bags... This waste is currently classified and treated according to the former material (PET, PVC, polyethylene), yielding different products depending on the type of plastic that is recycled. Each one can be used to obtain a particular new product: pipes, carpets, barrels, urban furniture, rubbish bags, acoustic insulation, etc.

Wasted waste

However, plastics in the yellow bin are mixed with many materials that are very dirty, degraded by use or strongly coloured and cannot be recycled; consequently, they are rejected since they cannot undergo any recovery process. These plastics, known as complex waste, account for 5 to 10% of the total material deposited in the yellow bin. This is a significant percentage, since the tonnes collected on a daily basis add up to an amount that should be exploited.

To these wastes we should add others that cannot be recycled right now, such as films and fibres, forest biomass waste or extremely light materials (such as polyurethane foams); all of these are also under investigation within the PROQUIPOL framework, which aims to recover waste's waste.

Funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation, this research project will be completed by 2012 and has a total budget of 1.25 million euros. The work of GAIKER-IK4 - international benchmark in R&D in the field of plastics, environment and recycling - is fulfilled in the development of chemical processes providing a solution to recycle this type of waste. The processes GAIKER-IK4 is working on, based on solvents or heat treatments, will allow for the conversion of different treated plastic waste into liquid fuels (for boilers or the automotive industry) or new raw materials to manufacture chemical products.
info:  Clara Bilbao,

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