Armacell has developed a way to convert recycled PET bottles into high-quality foam core materials. Image Credit: hedgehog94/Shutterstock.com
Despite many global governmental initiatives to limit carbon emissions, the impact of increased CO2 in the atmosphere continues to cause environmental damage.
The Production of Plastics
Despite significant recycling initiatives, it is currently estimated that only 9% of plastics are recycled. This is harmful to the environment in two ways.
The first is that the production of plastic products is linked to high levels of carbon emissions due to production processes and transportation. The second, is that a high percentage of plastic items are found in the ocean, with recent figures by NBM Media estimating that in 2020 around 500 million tons will be introduced to marine ecosystems around the planet, having a detrimental impact on marine life, the environment and human health.
Scientists, manufacturers, business owners, government agencies, and designers alike are all making moves to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by propagating the recycling of plastics, particularly of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) plastics, which are widely used in a number of industries and the production of consumer products, namely, plastic drink bottles.
Recent years have seen a boom in research and innovation surrounding the design and recycling of PET products and materials. The advancement of programs for the recycling of this material will be instrumental in reducing the carbon footprint of the number of industries that are linked with plastic products.
Research has shown that plastic bottle production accounts for a major segment of the plastic manufacturing industry. According to recent data, the production of just one 500 ml plastic water bottle has a carbon footprint of 82.8 g of carbon dioxide due to factors such as the fossil fuel energy required to produce and transport the product.
Increasing the recycling of PET products will have a significant impact on the manufacturing industry, and those related to it who rely on plastic products, by implementing a new and viable strategy for recycling beverage bottles that currently contribute to a considerable percentage of the total carbon footprint created by plastic manufacturing. This is likely to drastically reduce the carbon emissions related to both manufacturing and the industries that are closely related to it.
While the PET type of plastic is generally widely recycled, with a recycling rate of around 20% (which is relatively high, considering that PVC plastic has just a 2% recycling rate), it is not typically used in building materials. This limits its repurposing possibilities given the huge opportunity presented by the rapidly expanding green building materials market, which is predicted to grow at a CAGR of around 10% between 2020 and 2025, reaching a value of around $377,029 million by 2022.
A Belgium-based engineered foams manufacturer has come up with a game-changing innovation that will advance PET recycling, ensuring that a higher percentage is reused. Armacell Benelux has created high-value foam core materials for the composite industry from using recycled PET drinks bottles. Experts see this as the way forward to expanding the repurposing of PET plastics, helping to bring down its carbon footprint significantly, and reduce its impact on the environment through reducing the amount that is introduced into our oceans.
Armacell Creates Foam Core Materials from Recycled PET
Known as being a pioneer in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) technology, and recognized for being responsible for the breakthrough establishing PET foams as a structural core material within the composite materials sector, Armacell is well-positioned to initiate significant change in the field of PET recycling.
When the company began, they were designing and manufacturing PET foams from virgin PET. However, following vast amounts of research and prototyping, Armacell has been able to establish a process that can produce the same products from 100% recycled PET (rPET). Now, the company’s entire PET foam product range is created using this breakthrough technology, which is seeing Armacell lead the way in PET repurposing in the composite materials sector.
PET bottles are transformed into high-value foam core materials with lifetime longevities to be used in composite sandwich structures, such as those that wind turbine blades, train body structures, surfboards, and many other products are constructed from. Armacell’s technique has converted over one billion recycled PET bottles that would have otherwise gone to waste into high-quality foam core materials since they began this process in 2010.
As a result, Armacell Benelux’s materials produce 34% less carbon dioxide emissions in comparison with traditionally made PET foams. This represents a pivotal opportunity to not only reduce the amount of plastic entering landfills and the world’s oceans, but to also show the significant opportunity to reduce carbon emissions related to construction material manufacture drastically. Armacell’s recycled PET foam materials are 100% recyclable if they are no longer needed for their construction purposes.
Advancing the Process of PET Bottle Recycling
With its process of converting PET bottles into core materials, Armacell has added to the growing number of techniques that are advancing the trend in converting plastic waster into eco-friendly building materials. Other established techniques include the use of recycled plastics in constructing roads, tiles, fencing, roofing materials, scaffolding planks, and more.
Video Credit: Armacell - Global YouTube Channel/YouTube.com
What Armacell has achieved will likely set a precedent for the future of building material manufacture, where companies will likely be forced by new government initiatives to incorporate the use of recycled materials to reduce carbon emissions and prevent environmental damage.
The future will probably see the expansion of these techniques, developing the use of recycled PET into a wider variety of construction materials as well as developing new techniques to construct core materials from other types of plastic, such as PVC, which currently has a 2% recycle rate.
References and Further Reading
1 billion recycled plastic bottles used in our foam production, Armacell, https://local.armacell.com/en/armaform-pet-foam-cores/
Turning Plastic Waste into Eco-friendly Building Materials & Products, NBM&CW, S K Khanna, https://www.nbmcw.com/tech-articles/others-article/40473-turning-plastic-waste-into-eco-friendly-building-materials-products.html
Material Trends to Watch in 2019, Architect Magazine, Blaine Brownell, https://www.architectmagazine.com/practice/material-trends-to-watch-in-2019_o
Green Building Materials Market by Product Type, Allied Market Research, Eswara Prasad & Biswa Sinha, https://www.alliedmarketresearch.com/green-buildings-materials-market
Green building materials market - growth, trends, and forecast (2020 - 2025), https://www.mordorintelligence.com/industry-reports/green-building-materials-market