Case studies

How to enhance thermoplastic composite materials: a case study

In this case study, we see how Industrial Symbiosis can be used to avoid landfilling thermoplastic composite materials that cannot be recovered today, such as CER 07.02.13, 07.02.99, 04.02.09, while saving on disposal costs.

Foto a mezzo busto di Mario Lazzaroni,

Mario Lazzaroni

CFO & Co-founder

Nella foto è raffigurato un camion merci che sta scaricando le cimose, un particolare scarto composito termoplastico

Is it possible saving through the disposal of thermoplastic materials?

Are you looking for a way to drastically reduce the disposal cost of thermoplastic composites and laminates?

With the Circular Economy, it is now possible.

In fact, these laminated thermoplastics, with the CER codes 07.02.13, 07.02.99, 04.02.09, can be used to replace virgin thermoplastic polymers for the production of substrates for anti-trauma elements in the sports sector. such as braces.

What are thermoplastic composite materials?

The generic term composite material (or coupled material) refers to an element consisting of two or more substances.

The union of these two components gives the final product, i.e. the composite material, mechanical properties (e.g. resistance to forces or stresses) that are superior to those of the elements taken individually.

In the case of thermoplastic composite materials, the elements to be joined are plastic components (e.g. pvc and tpu product) or a plastic and a non-plastic component (e.g. PVC coupled with textile support).

An important feature from a Circular Economy perspective is that the waste from these materials can be recovered and turned into resources for other activities.

Do you want to enhance laminated PVC and TPU products? Sfridoo is the solution. Get in touch with a Sfridoo expert.

Examples of thermoplastic composite materials that can be recycled

As mentioned earlier, this type of waste cannot be identified with a single material.

For this and other reasons, the elements that can be recovered are different.

Over the years, working alongside large companies in these recovery routes, we have managed to recover:

  • selvedges, cuttings and entire reels of faux leather or pvc imitation leather;
  • pvc products laminated with textile support;
  • tpu products laminated with textile backing;
  • pvc and tpu products laminated with other non-thermoplastic polymers;
  • pvc or tpu coated fabric yarn and knits;
  • off-cuts from the production of pvc and tpu conveyor belts and belting;
  • off-cuts from the production of pvc wallpaper;
  • offcuts and trimmings from the production of car interiors and upholstery in general;
  • laminated thermoplastic polymer pipes;
  • dust from the treatment of pvc or tpu surfaces (e.g. embossing);
  • residues from the production of pvc packaging laminated with non-metallic materials;
  • offcuts of paper packaging laminated with thermoplastic polymers (metal-free);
  • pvc or tpu waste.

Although the materials you have just read about are diverse and conspicuous in number, it should be emphasised that the list is by no means complete.

The reason for the exclusion of certain materials is that in order to complete the waste recycling process, it is necessary that the part consisting of thermoplastic polymer (or mixture of thermoplastics, such as TPU and PVC) is at least 70%.

While the contaminant part must not exceed 30% and must have suitable characteristics to be grindable with the polymer.

Do you have one of these wastes and do you want to enhance them? Get in touch with a Sfridoo expert right away.

Enhancing thermoplastic composite materials: the sectors

Today, there are already several sectors that are taking advantage of a great opportunity, which have implemented virtuous practices of Industrial Symbiosis within their processes to recover these resources.

These productive sectors are:

  • production and packaging of imitation leather (fashion and automotive);
  • cutting and making-up of imitation leather;
  • production of conveyor belts;
  • production of composite tubes (mesh, non-metallic spiralised, composite, etc.);
  • production of laminated/coupled packaging;
  • recycling of electrical cables.

If your company is part of these or complementary sectors, then you too can benefit from the advantages of the Circular Economy right away and with efficient maintenance of your exponential processes.

PVC and TPU enhancement case study

Two leftovers were submitted for analysis: PVC (Polyvinylchloride) and TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane).

For both materials, a three-stage process was followed, which we outline below:

  • waste management and waste cost analysis phase;
  • Identification of valorisation opportunities phase;
  • economic benefit calculation phase.

Waste management and costs

As the waste has contaminants in it, it cannot be recycled in traditional plastic recovery plants.

This condition leads the waste to be disposed of mainly in authorised landfills, in Italy and often abroad.

Furthermore, a survey conducted by Sfridoo’s technicians on the Italian territory showed that the costs for the disposal of this waste vary from a minimum of €200.00/ton up to €300.00/ton, without considering the costs related to transport, which can affect at least €150.00 per single disposal.

An economically important figure for companies to bear, which can be reduced or reduced to zero through proper re-management

Are you looking for second material to reduce your production costs? Insert your material request.

Valorisation opportunities

Companies discarding thermoplastic polymer composite waste from their processes: 

  • EWC 07.02.13, 
  • EWC 07.02.99, 
  • EWC 04.02.09, 
  • EWC 12.01.05.

Today, thanks to the Circular Economy, they can seize an important opportunity to valorise this production waste.

Eliminating the production of this waste today is unthinkable for numerous structural reasons.

On the other hand, it is possible and desirable to eliminate the use of landfill, reducing disposal costs, thanks to a solution that respects the principles of circularity.

Depending on the characteristics of the composites, it is possible to activate material valorisation processes, e.g. in the manufacture of anti-trauma performance elements for the sports sector.

The scrap, suitably prepared at the manufacturer’s plant (carefully choosing the types and eliminating undesirable elements, such as mixed packaging, iron and glass), due to its content of noble thermoplastic polymers (pvc, tpu, ec…), can be used as a substitute for raw materials in the production of anti-trauma performance elements.

This makes the material ready for a second life within a new market.

Calculation of economic advantage

Let us now make a quick calculation on the economic advantage that such an operation can bring to a company that today incurs costs to dispose of this type of waste.

Let us imagine an industrial reality that produces 1,000 tonnes per year of PVC coating on PES textile support (CER 07.02.13), whose disposal cost is at the time of writing this article, 260.00 €/tonne to which 150.00 €/transport must be added.

The total annual cost to the company for the disposal and transport to the landfill of waste amounts to:

(1,000 x 260) + (1,000 / 6 x 150) = € 285,000.00/year

Now let us calculate the cost saving in starting a project to valorise this waste.

The recovery route involves a delivery cost of approximately 125-135 €/tonne and 500 €/vg of transport costs by truck (25-30 tons/trip).

Therefore, the calculation we have to make is as follows:

(1,000 x 130) + (1,000 / 28 x 500) = €147,857.14/year

As can be seen, the difference between the two values is net.

With a saving of about €135,000.00/year, which corresponds to a benefit of about 50% compared to landfill disposal, valorising this type of waste is a winning solution both on an environmental level, avoiding landfill, and on an economic level for the company.

Do you also want to gain this competitive and economic advantage? Ask for direct contact with an expert Sfridoo.

Conclusion: the shared benefit of Industrial Symbiosis

We have seen how it is possible not only to implement virtuous processes that save on the waste component but also how enormous economic and competitive advantages can be obtained through the correct identification of the material’s destiny.

With appropriate checks and market research, it is possible to obtain all these advantages, as well as create strategic relationships with other companies to create an Industrial Symbiosis network.

A network within which the principles of the Circular Economy can be applied in a concrete and systematic manner.

If you liked this article and found it useful, please share it with colleagues, friends and people who might be interested. In the meantime, if you want to stay updated on Sfridoo’s activities and become part of the startup’s growth process, subscribe to Sfridoo’s newsletter.

Foto a mezzo busto di Mario Lazzaroni,

Mario Lazzaroni

CFO & Co-founder

With Sfridoo® we give operational answers to companies taking the virtuous path of the circular economy. Drawing on the field experience of our team, we offer eco-innovative digital services and products.