ERUM Group: Clothes hangers from the recycling of urban plastic waste

The CEUS project is focused on the valorisation of plastic waste from the urban collection system, which is not currently recycled, and its aim is to achieve properties comparable to those of the starting polymers, which allow its use and processing.

ITENE collaborates, as an associated R&D centre, with the CIEN CEUS consortium, which is coordinated by URBASER and integrated by the companies ACTECO, PICDA, GRUPO ERUM, LINPAC and NORTPALET.

In this project, post-consumer recycled plastic hangers have been obtained from the research and implementation of new technologies for the classification, treatment and transformation of waste from the collection of the remaining fraction of the grey container, and more specifically from the film and mix fraction, which until now have not been recovered.

Context of urban plastic waste recycling

In the grey bin in Spain, waste that is not recyclable is discarded, even though some of it can be recovered. Through this system, 20.16 million tonnes of solid urban waste are collected in Spain every year, 12.43% of which are plastic (2.5 Mt), according to the latest INE data from November 2019.

At the treatment plant, this material is subjected to a treatment process focused on the recovery of the majority plastics (mainly PE – polyethylene – and PET – polyethylene terephthalate), thanks to which 41% of the plastic waste is recycled. However, at the end of the line, the film fraction (1,209,600t) and the mixed fraction (264,000t) remain.

These two fractions are not currently recycled due to their heterogeneous composition (presence of different plastics mixed or in the form of multi-layers), as well as the high contamination caused by the presence of other non-polymeric materials such as decomposing organic matter, paper, cardboard and glass.

About ERUM

With a history of more than 80 years, Erum Group is a Spanish company with headquarters in Alcoy (Alicante) and a presence in more than 20 countries that is dedicated to the design, injection and assembly of plastic parts, as well as other activities of the international corporation.

Among the objectives of the group of companies are the circularity of the products they manufacture, which is why it is committed to redesign, reuse, recycling and repair. The Erum Group manufactures high quality and resistant plastic products for different sectors and applications, such as clothes hangers, cosmetic products, eco-products (based on recycled materials), road safety devices and automotive parts.

Objective and expected results

The main objective of the CEUS project is the research on new optimised treatments for the recycling of urban plastic waste for use in different high added value applications.

The overall objective of ERUM is to obtain an additional source of supply of polystyrene and polypropylene from the currently discarded grey bin mixed fraction, improving the properties of these materials at a competitive cost. The aim is to obtain hangers for textile applications with properties similar to the currently used commercial grades.

PS (polystyrene) and PP (polypropylene) are materials of special interest in the logistics sector, particularly for the injection of hangers, due to their availability, cost and properties. However, the origin of this waste does not guarantee suitable properties for processing by injection moulding. To this end, the project has investigated different processes for the adaptation of the rheological and mechanical properties of polypropylene (rPP) and polystyrene (rPS) waste.

The project, financed by the Centro Tecnológico para el Desarrollo Industrial (CDTI), has also evaluated other types of technologies to improve the recovery of materials. Among them, an RFID radio frequency identification system has been installed to trace different types of packaging in order to improve the efficiency of sorting systems in waste treatment plants.

Once the fractions have been separated, different processes have been evaluated for the elimination of odours and the compatibilisation of polymers, as well as the delamination of multilayer materials, in order to obtain materials with greater purity for their transformation into new products, which will be developed by the different members of the project.