Role of thermolysis in material recycling

    Activity: Talk or presentation typesPublic or invited talk


    The recycling and waste management industry has a common problem relating to business development: all the easily recyclable waste is already being recycled and prices of recycled raw materials are low compared to primary materials. Thus, there is a high demand for new methods to utilise new side streams and sources of waste. We do not have to recycle only from material to material but also from material to elements and then back to completely different materials. This way we could take composite ingredients, break them apart, and recycle everything, not just the organic or inorganic material like we do today. These solutions include thermolysis (pyrolysis), which involves decomposing materials with heat in the absence of oxygen, and other thermochemical conversions, such as gasification.
    Thermolysis temperatures are typically 450-600 °C producing a liquid, gas and char products. Product yields and compositions are influenced by resin type, used catalyst, reactor technology, temperature and heating rate. The liquid products can be used as chemical feedstocks or fuels.
    Thermolysis technologies turn waste management into raw material processing, where the focus is on ingredients and formulas and not parts or materials. One benefit of thermolysis is e.g. its ability to handle contaminated waste. With these new processes, the recycling industry can use anything, from industrial side streams to municipal solid waste, as ingredients for new products.
    One example of new Era recycling is VTT’s Urban Mill concept, developed together with industrial partners for organic municipal and industrial waste streams; including plastic waste. One of the technologies included in the concept is thermolysis, recovering organic components to be used to produce new plastic and chemicals. The concept's economic competitiveness arises mainly from integration benefits such as concurrent waste minimization, cost savings, improved logistics, more uniform and lower cost feedstock due to efficient materials recycling between the participating consortium members, and between the consortium and the surrounding community.
    In the long term, chemical recycling, like thermolysis and gasification, may contribute in the move towards closed loop recycling of materials and substances as well as hydrocarbons due to the ability to remove also hazardous substances and handle challenging raw materials streams. The commitment of secondary material producers is crucial in the development of sustainable cost-efficient chemical recycling value chain.
    Period8 Mar 2018
    Event titleCircular Materials Conference 2018
    Event typeConference
    LocationGothenburg, SwedenShow on map
    Degree of RecognitionInternational