Removal of hazardous substances in polyethylene packages using supercritical carbon dioxide (sc-CO2 )
in recycling process

About the project

Around 3% of waste generated in the EU27 is hazardous, which represents about 12 kg of hazardous waste per capita (2006 data, EUROSTAT). EU legislation covering hazardous waste requires Members States to comply with certain rules concerning its collection, handling, recycling and treatment.

The conventional method for reducing or eliminating threats from hazardous containers waste involves the triple rinsing and draining of empty containers. Specifically, it involves prerinsing, crushing, washing (with different washing agents, detergents or surfactants) and subsequent rinsing and drying. After drying, the material can then be passed through an ex- trusion line, to produce a recycled material in pellet form
This process requires large amounts of water, cleaning agents, and energy. It also produces large volumes of wastewater. Additionally, the recycled plastic obtained from a conventional recycling process is used in applications with low added value (e.g. pallets), as they generally have inferior mechanical and organoleptic properties.


The project’s main objective is to demonstrate the viability of a new technique for eliminating hazardous substances from polyethylene (PE) waste from packaging for solvents or phytosanitary products. The project will use a technology that applies a supercritical carbon dioxide (sc-CO2) in the extrusion phase of the plastic recycling process.

This process is expected to partially, or totally, substitute two of the three stages involved in conventional treatments, which should reduce the labour requirement and the consumption of energy and water. The recycled material will then be employed in the production of packaging for hazardous substances, closing the life cycle. The project aims to provide a reference for the implementation of new solutions in the plastics recycling industry, leading to more efficient and environmentally friendly processes, as well as higher quality recycled material.

Expected Results

The project will develop a new recycling technology for plastic waste from packaging for hazardous substances. If applied in ACTECO’s plastic waste management facilities,

which uses three washes with a capacity of 18 m3 of water and has an annual output of 1 000 tonnes/year, the project expects to achieve:
• A reduction in water consumption: from 558 m3/year to 279 m3/year;
• A reduction in chemicals use: from 45 tonnes/year of surfactants, NaOH and wastewater treatment substances, to 15.75 tonnes/year; and
• A reduction in energy consumption: from 15 000 kWh/year to 1 500 kWh/year, which equates to a cut of 630kg CO2 /year.

LIFE13 ENV/ES/000067

Name of beneficiary
Asociación de Investigación de Materiales Plásticos y Conexas

Name of contact person
Nuria García

Duration of project:
30 months (01/07/2014 - 31/12/2016)

Total budget in euro:

EC contribution in euro:

Climate change - Energy: Energy efficiency - Energy saving - Reduction of greenhouse gases emissions / Risk management-Industrial risks: Hazardous substances / Waste: Packaging and plastic waste - Waste recycling - Waste reduction - Raw material saving / Water: Water saving