M.ore than half of the plastic waste generated in Germany is incinerated. Material recycling, i.e. the manufacture of new products from the garbage, often fails because it is a wild mixture of dozen types that are also mixed with additives, such as fire retardants.
The Norwegian company Quantafuel has now developed a process with which these plastic mixtures can be recycled. They are pyrolyzed, i.e. heated in the absence of air. The long polymer molecules break in the process. A gas is produced that contains impurities, including ash and often chlorine. Quantafuel has succeeded in removing all foreign matter from this gas.
What remains are pure hydrocarbons. Finally, the gas is cooled so that it largely liquefies. The end product is high purity pyrolysis oil that replaces fossil hydrocarbons such as petroleum and natural gas.
This is exactly what the Ludwigshafen chemical giant BASF does. In the future, he will get 15 million liters of pyrolysis oil a year from the first large system that Quantafuel built in Skive, Denmark. From this oil, BASF produces chemicals and pure granules from which high-quality plastics are made. This is supposed to be just the beginning. The Norwegians want to build a plant that, with an annual capacity of around 250,000 tonnes of plastic waste, is more than ten times the size of the one in Denmark. It will deliver around 190 million liters of oil a year. Remondis, one of the largest waste recyclers in Europe, is supposed to collect the valuable plastic waste. The pyrolysis oil factory, the location of which is still open, is scheduled to go into operation in 2025.