Safe solutions to transform non-recyclable packaging into energy and heat.
In accordance with the hierarchy of waste management issued by the European Union and Italy, Corepla places priority on prevention, re-use and mechanical recycling, in that order. However, the Consortium is aware that “energy recovery” cannot be disregarded for the full post-consumer recovery of plastic packaging waste, given its complexity and intrinsic characteristics.
Although energy recovery is not a priority, the Consortium is developing a network of diversified, safe and controlled technological solutions which, following the appropriate preparation processes, can transform non-recyclable packaging and packaging from undifferentiated waste streams into energy and heat. As such, the extremely high energy content in plastics would be put to use, rather than sending the materials to landfill.
Waste streams sent for recovery
Corepla only sends packaging for energy recovery that has no recycling options or for which recycling costs would be unsustainable due to lack of appropriate technology or inadequate material yields. Some packaging, e.g. plastics made of several intrinsically linked polymers, is structurally more complex and therefore more difficult to recycle.
For now, energy is recovered from two plastic packaging waste streams, both of which work towards meeting legal targets by avoiding landfill:
- Plasmix, i.e. the percentage of plastic packaging present in separate waste collection. It is obtained after the sorting process but cannot yet be mechanically recycled. This is waste from the sorting process, consisting mainly of non-recyclable packaging and extraneous materials (i.e. everything that citizens mistakenly sort into the separate waste collection stream: non-packaging and other materials);
- the percentage of plastic packaging in undifferentiated waste sent to advanced waste-to-energy plants (to produce electricity and heat).
Due to its heterogeneity and condition, a percentage of the mixed packaging mechanically sorted from the separate waste collection stream cannot be recycled using current technology. However, these materials have a lower heating value (LHV) of between 18 and 25 MJ/kg, which is similar to that of traditional fossil fuels, making them ideal for use in combustion and co-combustion processes.
Plasmix is therefore designed for specialised and technologically advanced plants that produce alternative fuels for energy recovery, while the remainder – mainly extraneous materials – is sent to landfill.
The fuels obtained from Plasmix are mainly used to replace fossil fuels at thermal power stations (e.g. cement plants) and advanced technology waste-to-energy plants with adequate efficiency standards.
End of Waste and REACH
The main application of Plasmix is as a Solid Secondary Fuel (SSF). It can be used as a partial alternative fuel to petcoke used for clinker burning, an essential component in cement production processes. The fuel is fed into either the pre-calciner, as raw fuel, or the main burner (final section of the rotary kiln), as refined fuel. Extremely advanced and controlled production and refining processes are required to produce high-quality SSF.
In accordance with Legislative Decree No. 22 of 14 February 2013, and in line with strict standards of quality, traceability, control and environmental compliance, the SSF produced can achieve End of Waste (EoW) status and therefore no longer be classified as waste. Corepla has also acted as a market promoter to register the EoW Solid Secondary Fuel produced using Plasmix with the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), in accordance with Regulation 1907/2006/EC, or REACH. Registering the product is a further guarantee of quality and environmental compliance.
This registration and control process allows the SSF produced with Plasmix to surpass classification as waste, to become a product on par with traditional fossil fuels, but with better and lower environmental impacts as part of a decarbonisation strategy.