Building a Solution to the Plastic Waste Problem with a unique recycling technology
Plastics are light, strong, and resistant to corrosion, and they are used in a variety of applications, resulting in a rapid increase in plastic production year by year. As a result, plastic waste is also increasing, and it is said that about eight million tons of plastic waste flows into the ocean every year (Note 1). In addition, even where outflow to the ocean is prevented, most of the waste is incinerated, generating greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
Efforts to recycle mono-material plastic products such as PET plastic bottles and shampoo bottles are beginning to make headway. However, there has been less progress where there are multiple types of plastic, or plastic and aluminum laminated together, such as with potato chip packages and detergent refill packs, because the recycling of these items leads to a reduction in strength.
Furukawa Electric has developed "APFU" (Advanced Paper Fibre Upcycling), a technology where even these plastics that are currently not recycled are blended with plant fibers such as paper and wood for upcycling.
Enhancing plastic strength with "APFU"
Mixing paper with plastic via regular processing methods reduces its strength. However, when "APFU" is used, it is possible to disperse the paper into the plastic in a fibrous state. The cellulose fibers reinforce the plastic in the same way that the bones serve to reinforce the flesh of a fish. Therefore, even in cases where the materials are incompatible and the strength declines, such as where there are multiple kinds of plastics or aluminum is present, the use of "APFU" makes it possible to increase the material strength.
Reinforcing plastics with the cellulose fibers contained in paper, wood, etc.
The strength is approximately doubled when APFU is used
Examples of recycling using "APFU"
Furukawa Electric injection molded the body part of ballpoint pens from raw materials that included plastic refuse such as various food packaging, and the cellulose fibers contained in beverage carton refuse, wood waste and coffee grounds. Furukawa Electric has also injection molded the backrest part of a chair with strength equivalent to that of glass fiber reinforced resin, by using waste PP strapping bands for packaging and paper notebook offcuts as raw materials.
In addition, Furukawa Electric has press-molded colourful coasters by adding pigments to various kinds of plastic waste and paper cartons.
Furukawa Electric has also succeeded in regenerating a material for 3D printing applications.
- Beverage cartons
- Potato chip packaging
- Chocolate confectionery packaging
- Wood waste
- Coffee grounds, etc.
Cooperation: ZEBRA Co., Ltd.
- PP strapping band waste + Paper notebook offcuts
Cooperation: KOKUYO Co., Ltd.
- Potato chip packaging + Beverage cartons, etc.
- Furukawa Electric multilayer film waste + Beverage cartons
Cooperation: S. Lab Inc.
Kentaro Yabunaka of the Furukawa Electric European recycling business promotion team says: “The United Nations Environment Assembly has agreed to develop a legally binding international treaty to eradicate plastic pollution. In addition, the European Commission aims to make all plastic packaging in the EU market recyclable by 2030. The APFU technology of Furukawa Electric is a technology that makes it possible to upcycle even the plastic waste that the world has given up on recycling. Furthermore, compared with plastic waste being incinerated, if it is recycled using APFU and used instead of virgin materials, then it is possible to suppress GHG emissions by 2.5 CO2-ekg per 1 kg of recycled material(Note 2). By promoting the use of APFU, we hope to contribute to solve the problem of marine plastics and to measures to tackle climate change.”
GHG emissions reduction of 2.5 CO2-ekg per 1 kg of recycled material:
When material recycled from confectionery film and paper cartons is used instead of PP. Value estimated from test production at Furukawa Electric.