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Coperion and Aurora Kunststoffe
Profitable Recycling and Upcycling with ZSK Extruders

Aurora’s new production area is equipped with ultramodern ZSK 45 compounding systems from Coperion. (Picture: Coperion)
Aurora’s new production area is equipped with ultramodern ZSK 45 compounding systems from Coperion. (Picture: Coperion)

Aurora Kunststoffe, a company located in Neuenstein and since end of 2019 member of MOL Group, is demonstrating how plastic processors’ production waste can be recycled and upcycled profitably. This producer of recompounds uses rejected parts accumulated from plastic components manufacturing as primary raw material and processes it into recycled, new-product-quality plastic compounds. After a major fire in their production area in 2017, Aurora Kunststoffe decided once again to rely on ZSK twin screw extruders from Coperion. Those three ZSK 45 Mc18 twin screw extruders have been in successful operation since early 2019, and with their high throughputs and their reliability, they have fulfilled every requirement that Aurora Kunststoffe needs for their innovative business plan.

Technology for First-Rate Compounds

In manufacturing technical plastic parts, typically there is approximately a five percent rejection rate. Aurora Kunststoffe purchases this production waste, then examines the precise composition and varietal purity. Once they pass quality control, the single-variety plastic parts are ground, fed into the compounding process and pelletized. The result is pellets mainly based on PA6, PA66, PA11, PA12, POM, PP, PC, and PC-ABS. To accomplish this, Aurora Kunststoff relies on Coperion ZSK technology. Within the ZSK twin screw extruders, the ground material is reliably homogenized with additives, fillers and reinforcing materials and devolatilized. To this end, Coperion designed each of these three ZSK 45 extruders individually for Aurora Kunststoffe’s requirements, equipping them with ZS-EG twin screw side devolatilization units and special wear protection for product-contact parts. Following melt discharge from the die head at the end of the extruder’s process section, plastic strands are taken over by semiautomatic SCP 200 strand conveying systems from Coperion Pelletizing Technology. They are automatically conveyed via a cooling water chute and a conveyor belt to the strand pelletizer’s feed mechanism, where they are cut to compounds whose quality corresponds to that of new material. Noted Norbert Büter, Coperion Sales Manager, “When recycling plastics, it is necessary to adapt the process parameters and recipes to the various raw materials. With their flexibility and high torques, ZSK twin screw extruders are optimally suited for processing even the most difficult raw materials to very good product quality and they do it at throughputs that are economical. By devolatilizing using ZS-EGs, not only are unwanted gases removed; operational safety of the entire vacuum system is increased. This applies especially to even very volatile viscosities.”

Rebuilding Production

In 2017, a large fire at Aurora Kunststoffe destroyed the entire production area. Aurora Kunststoffe held fast to its successful sustainability concept, even expanding it after the fire. New twin screw extruders began operation in a new, larger space in 2019. In meeting such a tight deadline, Aurora Kunststoffe relied on close collaboration with their suppliers. Alexander Schweinle, Head of Production at Aurora Kunststoffe, is particularly proud of this: “Coperion delivered not just three ZSK 45 extruders that were individually designed for us, and the appropriate strand pelletizers, but they also supported us with the engineering necessary for the entire production. I would like to emphasize the really good collaboration between our two companies: Coperion consistently reacts to our inquiries quickly and knowledgeably, which was key during our production’s rebuilding phase.”

Successful Recycling Concept

Production waste from industrial plastics manufacturing is becoming more and more valuable in times of rising raw materials prices and increased environmental pollution. Aurora Kunststoffe buys these industrial by-products and turns them into high-quality raw materials that are used in the automotive, construction, furniture and electronics industries.

Plastic waste comes to Aurora as part of its unique Aurora-Lean-Logistics concept, consisting of Aurora’s own fleet of about 60 semi-trailers and a box concept for perfecting single-origin collection. At Aurora, materials are ground and processed into recompounds by means of extrusion. With this process, Aurora Kunststoffe achieves throughputs of up to 650 kg/h on their ZSK 45 twin screw extruders. Per day, Aurora Kunststoffe produces over 50 tons of compounds. For the future, Aurora anticipates increasing demand. “I am certain that sooner or later, there will be a legally mandated recycling quota”, said Schweinle.

Jochen Schofer, Business Segment Manager, Recycling & Direct Extrusion at Coperion added: “We’re convinced that becoming circular is unavoidable for the plastics industry.” To that end, there is still plenty of room for improvement. In Germany, the share of recyclate used in plastics processing in 2017 only achieved a bit more than 12%. Aurora Kunststoffe, in contrast, is taking an absolutely leading role for us; their company concept is not only profitable, it’s sustainable too! We’re proud to support Aurora Kunststoffe with our compounding and engineering know-how!”

Chemicals

A ground-breaking approach to keep plastics circular

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Fully in line with its award-winning No Waste vision, Coveris is now introducing a new business segment named ‘ReCover’, bundling all efforts in waste sourcing, processing, and recycling to close the loop for circular plastic recycling. ReCover will act as a separate company supplying Coveris sites on an arm’s length basis but also supplying third party customers that are interested in recyclates on a quality level that are not available in the market today.

As part of its sustainability strategy, Coveris has already announced the ambition of reducing waste in all its forms. Expanding its recycling capacity and capabilities is just the next logical step for avoiding pollution and supporting customers in their sustainability efforts.

“With ReCover, we have launched a game-changing process – unique within the entire industry. With several high-impact projects in the pipeline, we are aiming at establishing a stand-alone Business Unit in the next couple of years, entirely dedicated to circular economy and closing the loop. ReCover is a platform for all mechanical recycling activities but also leads our developments to achieve food contact compliant materials.” comments Jakob A. Mosser, CEO Coveris.

To further strengthen and expand its recycling capabilities Coveris has recently acquired the site and assets from Capital Valley Plastics Blaenavon in Wales, UK. CVP is a well-established PE recycler, processing post-consumer and post-industrial waste via in-house mechanical recycling extruded mostly into building films. The Blaenavon site is equipped with the latest state-of-the-art mechanical recycling technology, with an annual capacity of 20 000 tons.

“The newly acquired Blaenavon site and assets will serve as an important recycling hub for Coveris’ Films and Flexibles operations, closing the loop for customers and for our own film production across the network. This new recycling acquisition marks a perfect start for our new company ReCover and our quest to continuously enhance our recycling offers to our customers, truly closing the loop and bringing us closer to our vision of No Waste.”, closes Mosser.

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Chemicals

Energy management system for green hydrogen

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ABB introduces its energy management system ABB Ability OPTIMAX to the green hydrogen market, to help reduce costs of production by enabling real-time visibility of energy consumption across operations.

Green hydrogen made via electrolysis – a process of using electricity from renewable sources to split water into hydrogen and oxygen – is widely considered an important energy vector for achieving a low carbon future. It does, however, pose significant challenges in the way of high production costs and energy intensive processes.

According to the Green Hydrogen Catapult, a global initiative made up of leading energy companies, to scale up production capacity to the 50 times needed, the cost to produce green hydrogen needs to drop by 50 percent to less than $2/kg by 2026.

ABB’s OPTIMAX supports this by serving every aspect of a hydrogen plant lifecycle, from simulation at design and engineering phases to real-time visualization and monitoring when in operation. The software measures bi-directional power flows and carbon dioxide emissions providing contextual data which operators can use to determine optimal energy consumption levels required to support plant processes and minimize waste.

The transparency offered by the solution can also be applied to increase the efficiency and safety of each electrolyzer module being operated within the plant, regulating each module’s speed, and ensuring it is only used as and when required.

“Scaling up green hydrogen production requires significant capital investment as well as high operating costs,” said Sleman Saliba, Global Product Manager Energy Management for ABB Process Automation. “Nearly 70 percent of the total operating costs to run a hydrogen plant comes from the electricity needed to split the water molecule in the electrolysis process. With OPTIMAX, for between 1-3 percent technology investment, operators can run their industrial processes in the most energy efficient way and gain up to 20 percent reduction in electricity-based costs.”

Incorporating intra-day planning, operators can also utilize OPTIMAX to plan ahead to trade competitively with the grid, developing a circular energy system that is based on forecasts of renewable energy availability against demand, also considering market electricity prices.​

The solution can also be used to optimize green hydrogen integration with existing hydrogen networks and any future infrastructure that may developed.

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Chemicals

Innovation Hub for Co-Creation of end-to-end

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As part of continuous investment, GCR Group has announced the recent opening of a dedicated R&D center in La Bisbal del Penedés, Tarragona, Spain. This ‘Innovation Hub’ is intended to build on 20 years of experience in materials technology and develop short-term and long-term polymer-based solutions that minimise environmental impact. The overall company investment is expected to reach Euros 100 million by 2025. Combined with the new state-of-the-art 200,000 tonnes recycling plant opening in 2023, these investments reflect a long-term vision created when the company was founded in 2001; ’Innovating our Sustainable Tomorrow.’

While materials based on virgin polymer resins have well-defined and consistent properties, working with recycled materials or finding ways to reduce carbon footprint presents new challenges that require experimentation to solve. Often custom solutions need to be created considering the waste stream and the application. This is why GCR believes collaborative partnerships in ‘co-creation’ projects within the value chain are vital. The new 2000 square meter Innovation Hub concentrates the technical expertise of GCR’s talented team. It includes all the equipment necessary for incubation and proof of concept from development to pilot plant and final production.

Existing collaborations involve technical institutions, equipment suppliers, raw material and waste-stream suppliers, plastic converters and brand owners. GCR also offers turn-key project management where customers completely trust GCR’s capabilities. “We prefer to send you all our scrap because the quality you’re getting out of it is something we will never reach,” quoted a major converter.

GCR’s extensive materials know-how and relentless attention to quality are reflected in existing product ranges. CICLIC R-polyolefins (Recycled polyolefins) are based on ‘up-cycling’ fully traceable waste streams and can deliver similar and consistent material properties as virgin plastics with 60-80 percent lower Carbon Footprint certification.

GRANIC mineral-filled masterbatches and compounds can offer up to a 30 percent reduction in energy costs in downstream polymer processing. In addition to an extensive range of existing products, the Innovation Hub combines GCR’s comprehensive technical and processing expertise to customise products and bring solutions to the challenges encountered when using post-consumer or post-industrial waste or carbon footprint/LCA improvement. GCR can enhance the value of waste streams through, for example, compatibilizers or capturing/blocking odour-producing bacteria. In addition, it has developed bio-polymer-based and biodegradable solutions.

“We firmly believe that we have the capability, agility and vision to accelerate the circular economy,” says Santiago Sans, Innovation Director at GCR. “Through this investment, we demonstrate our belief in collaboration with like-minded partners in the value chain.”

Finding new sustainable solutions will require changes in how the plastics industry traditionally works; a combination of know-how, new ways of thinking, and a long-term vision. GCR’s investments in Innovation Hub and the new recycling plant bring new tools to help facilitate these changes. This is another example of GCR’s long-term commitment to the circular economy.

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