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Lodestar: Designing a model for an ‘all plastics’ recycling facility combining mechanical and chemical recycling.

Pioneer Projects are collaborations that are initiated and run by participants of the New Plastics Economy initiative of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. They explore ways to move away from the linear plastics economy, where we take, make, and dispose of plastic, towards a circular system, where we keep useful plastics in the economy and out of the environment.

Project Lodestar participants, from across the value chain, joined forces to design an advanced Plastics Reprocessing Facility (a-PRF), combining state-of-art mechanical recycling and chemical (feedstock) recycling.

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Methodology: Firstly, Lodestar models a best-in-class mechanical-only Plastics Reprocessing Facility, the PRF. Lodestar then investigates the economics and environmental impacts of combining mechanical and chemical recycling in one location by modelling an advanced Plastics Reprocessing Facility (a-PRF). In both cases, actual waste composition data from Scotland is used for modelling the input materials. In order to optimise the capture of waste for recycling, it was assumed that a single plastic recycling bin scheme collected all plastic directly from the consumer.

‘All plastic in one bin’ collections

The waste data used in the modelling is based on the waste composition of Scotland. It combines plastic waste from households, collected in one single bin, and industrial waste streams.

Source WRAP and Valpak ‘Plastics Spacial Flow’ June 2016

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The a-PRF model

A blueprint for an a-PRF facility was developed comparing three mechanical configurations each including a RT7000 feedstock recycling system. The model used a nominal 20,000 tonnes per annum plant, fed through a single bin collection. The material flows, yields, economics and environmental impacts were modelled.

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An a-PRF could increase waste operators' revenue by 25% and decrease the payback time of the facility by 11%.

Keeping Plastics in the Circular Economy

Lodestar shows that co-locating mechanical and feedstock recycling processes can increase the fraction of plastics kept in circulation. 

Both the PRF and the a-PRF mechanically recycle 52% of plastic waste into recycled polymer flakes and send 5% (mainly PVC) to landfill. The PRF sends the remaining 43% to incineration, while the a-PRF recycles this fraction on-site using feedstock recycling.

Here, according to the model, 32% could be converted back to plastics or other materials, with the remaining 11% being used for internal fuelling. All these figures could be improved with better product design and material choices (e.g. eliminating PVC from packaging).

MATERIAL FLOWS – POLYMER REPROCESSING FACILITY (PRF)
MATERIAL FLOWS – ADVANCED POLYMER REPROCESSING FACILITY (a-PRF)

Lodestar research shows a 21% decrease in the carbon footprint, comparing a PRF and an a-PRF. 

From Lodestar partners...

“Project Lodestar has brought multiple industries together in a collaborative effort to design a blueprint for a recycling facility that combines the best of existing technologies and new technologies to make all plastics recyclable.”

RACHEL GOLDSTEIN, GLOBAL SUSTAINABILITY SENIOR MANAGER AT MARS

“Project Lodestar is an excellent demonstration of industry-wide collaboration to prevent plastic leakage. The fact that a facility is now being built in Scotland is testimony to this. We hope to see a time when all the outputs from such a facility can be re-manufactured and used to close the loop on plastic.”

GAVIN WARNER, DIRECTOR SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS UNILEVER

“Lodestar supports the foundations for Project Beacon in Scotland, where best in class mechanical and chemical plastic recycling technologies will sit side by side to accelerate the process of halting the unnecessary leakage of waste plastic into the environment.”

JOHN FERGUSON, MANAGING DIRECTOR ECOIDEAM

“Lodestar provides a clear pathway to help waste businesses and governments meet their targets to recycle plastic.”

ADRIAN GRIFFITHS, CEO RECYCLING TECHNOLOGIES

“Project Beacon has the potential to be a truly ground-breaking step forward in the battle to reduce plastic waste, not just for Scotland but globally.”

IAIN GULLAND, CEO ZERO WASTE SCOTLAND