The equivalent of 10,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. This is how much carbon could be spared for the climate if plastic waste from the new installation and maintenance of infrastructure and buildings in Sweden is recycled. Recycling plastic from construction waste and using it in the manufacture of new pipes is possible as shown by experiments conducted by RISE and Talent Plastics, which now hope to get access to more plastics from collected pipes.
Every year in Sweden, large quantities of plastic pipes are installed in new constructions and during the maintenance of infrastructure and buildings. The installations simultaneously create about 5,000 tonnes of plastic waste, which is primarily consigned to energy recovery. In geothermal drilling, newly produced pipes are only used for a few hours and then discarded. The pipes are made from high quality plastics, such as high-density polyethylene (HDPE), polypropylene (PP) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which could be recycled into new pipes.
Potential savings could amount to approximately SEK 50 million per year if installation waste is recycled instead of just recovering the energy. In addition, it is estimated that the climate could be spared the equivalent of around 10,000 tonnes of CO2 per year according to calculations performed by Chalmers Industriteknik and RISE in the REPIPE project.
A model for waste collection
To take advantage of the value of plastic, a new collection model for installation waste has been developed. Several successful trials of collection, sorting and recycling have been conducted in collaboration with Renova, construction contractors, NCC Recycling, Novoplast, and pipe manufacturers Uponor and Talent Plastics. Pipe waste has been collected and sorted, and new optic cable ducts and cable protection sleeves have been manufactured.
“I am very pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the plastic,” says Jari Purtsi of Talent Plastics. “At first I was sceptical about feeding the remaining plastic directly into the equipment, but it worked without a hitch. Now we hope to have access to more recycled pipe material.”
The main challenges now involve increasing collection and identifying efficient logistics.
“The goal is that pipes coming in to Renova should be recycled, and we also want to work towards increasing the collection of pipes,” says Davis Dalek at Renova in Gothenburg.