Application Center for Wood Fiber Research HOFZET®

Research project

Recycling of polylactide by selective dissolution from waste streams

In the sub-project SustRecPLA of the research alliance "Sustainable Strategies for Recycling Products and Waste Materials from Biobased Plastics”, the Fraunhofer WKI and IVV are pursuing the adaptation of a solvent-based PLA recycling process with the aim of obtaining high-quality PLA recyclates from heterogeneous PLA-containing post-consumer waste.

© Fraunhofer WKI | Anna Dörgens
PLA-containing post-consumer waste
© Fraunhofer WKI | Anna Dörgens
Foreground: PLA flakes, background: remaining components from the post-consumer waste

The background is the application of PLA as the currently most important bio-based plastic on the packaging market. For this purpose, however, PLA is frequently applied as a composite material or blend. High-quality and pure recyclates are difficult to achieve with conventional recycling processes. For comparison purposes, the juxtapositioning of solvent-based and thermomechanical recycling (recompounding) is carried out as regards the recyclate quality and economic efficiency. A solution to the end-of-life management for PLA would simplify the market launch of PLA. The ecological and economically more sustainable production of plastic packaging would thereby be expedited.

The project is as sub-project an integral part of the research alliance "Sustainable Strategies for Recycling Products and Waste Materials from Biobased Plastics”. The project aim of the alliance is the establishment of a knowledge base for the integration of bio-based plastics into the German waste management industry, including the technology transfer necessary for this purpose. Further issues which are being addressed by participating Fraunhofer institutes within the framework of the alliance project include the creation of foundations for the integration of old polylactide into the synthesis process for PLA (Fraunhofer IAP) and the preparation of a sustainability assessment of the developed procedures (Fraunhofer UMSICHT).

Important steps within the project SustRecPLA are:

  • Analysis and characterization of the currently-occurring PLA waste streams
  • Adaptation of the existing solvent-based recycling process for PLA-containing post-consumer waste
  • Sample production of high-quality and pure PLA recyclate using an upscale-capable pilot plant
  • Characterization and application assessment of the recyclate
  • Comparison of solvent-based and thermomechanical recycling (recompounding) as regards recyclate quality and economic efficiency

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Funding

Funding body: German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL)

Project management: Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e. V. (Agency for Renewable Resources, FNR)

Project coordination: Knoten Weimar GmbH

FNR funding reference: 22031812

Duration: 01.11.2014 to 31.10.2017

Funded by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture by decision of the German Parliament
Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e. V. (Agency for Renewable Resources)