Leaders in the recycling and waste management industries discussed solutions to the problems posed by plastic scrap at the Tomra Leads Global Conference 2019 June 4-5 in Sofia, Bulgaria.
With the theme “Recycling in a Plastic World,” the two-day event focused on trends and innovations throughout the plastic value chain. More than 200 delegates from 31 countries were also given the opportunity to see how Germany-based Tomra Sorting Recycling’s technologies recover reusable materials from household waste at Elin Pelin, Bulgaria-based Integra Plastics’ new 40-million-euro plastics recycling plant.
The third biannual Tomra Leads event was “designed to share knowledge and accelerate progress in recycling and waste management” through keynote speeches, presentations, discussions and networking opportunities, Tomra says in a news release.
“The Tomra Leads conferences are proving to be a useful and popular forum for the exchange of information and ideas,” says Tom Eng, senior vice president and head of Tomra Sorting Recycling. “The focus of this year’s event was something which deeply concerns hundreds of millions of people all over the world: What can be done to tackle the discarded plastic piling up at landfill sites, drifting in oceans and killing marine life. The conference showed how recycling plastic [scrap] has a vital role to play, and how, at the same time as benefiting the environment, this is also a commercial opportunity.”
On the second day of the conference, speakers shared expert insights into the direction of the recycling market, the circular economy and the role of virgin materials and financial investment models. Eng opened the conference with a welcome speech titled, “The future of recycling—Are you ready?”
Five presentations were given that morning. Volker Rehrmann, executive vice president and head of circular economy at Tomra, shared the company’s perspective on the circular economy and the role Tomra will play. Andy Grant, technical director of local government of Eunomia research and consulting, talked about waste collection systems and the impact on recycling plastics.
Herman Van Roost, business development manager recycling at Total Refining and Petrochemicals, gave a presentation on circular plastics’ fundamentals and innovation challenges. Ed Kosior, managing director at the United Kingdom-based consulting firm Nextek, talked about the recyclability of plastics. In addition, Iilya Kardashliev, principal banker in the infrastructure department at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), explained financial models to support plastics recycling investments.
That afternoon, visitors had the choice of attending either the Plastic Recycling Conference or the Legislation Conference, which ran at the same time. Both conferences were followed by panel discussions.
Discussions at the Legislation Conference focused on exchanging information and ideas on how recycling and waste management businesses must respond to changing regulations.
Tina Adjic, a senior consultant with Brussels-based consulting firm ADS Insight, first provided an update on European Union (EU) legislation on waste. Giving an overview of the current state of affairs, Fabrizio Radice, vice president of global sales and marketing at Tomra, reviewed what is actually being recycled at present, how new legislation will affect current practices and what will be required of new designs from packaging manufacturers, as well as aligning legislation and business. The discussion involved Grant, Adjic, Radice and Roland Ramusch and was chaired by Thomas Morgenstern, vice president of governmental affairs at Tomra.
The other discussion focused on overcoming challenges in the plastics value chain. László Székely, head of new plastics economy at Tomra, opened the session before Graeme Smith, innovation and sustainability manager at Austria-based Mondi Group, gave a case study of a converter’s requirements. The discussion involved Székely, Van Roost, Rehrmann, Kosior and Smith and was chaired by Jim Keefe, executive vice president and group publisher of the Recycling Today Media Group, Valley View, Ohio.
Visitors also watched the film “eXXpedition: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” which follows an all-woman crew as they sailed to the vast stretch of ocean known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, in collaboration with Tomra, to study the environmental impact and raise awareness of ocean litter.
On a tour of Integra Plastics, which opened February 2019, conference attendees learned the new plant employs 85 people and 14 Tomra Autosort machines. One Autosort is combined with the laser object direction (LOD) system and two were designed for the plant to sort out black film plastics. The facility has capacity to recycle 40,000 tons of mixed-color postconsumer film plastics per year.
Integra’s specialty is the production of high-quality recycled low-density polyethylene (LDPE), high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PP) granules. Attendees were shown Integra’s entire process for plastic recycling, which starts with plastic scrap arriving in bales and cut by a large shredder.
The shredded material moves along more than one kilometer of conveyor belts, where a magnet and a screen filter out unwanted materials, including metals. The material is then sorted by Tomra machines into six streams, by polyolefin type and color. After hot washing and drying, the plastic flakes are cleaned of any remaining impurities, colors and materials through additional Tomra units before being forwarded for regranulation, where plastics are compressed, melted, filtered, degassed, homogenized and made into pellets.
The pellets are packed into 1-ton bags, ready for reuse in a wide range of applications. At the facility, Integra produces customized resin qualities, including different material grades combined with different colors.