For a number of reasons, plastics in cables present a challenge to recyclers, something that particularly applies to cross-linked polyethylene (PEX), which is used in power lines. However, it is now possible to produce cable drums from recycled PEX.
Due to the high value of their metals, cables have been recycled for decades; however, the level of recycling for cable plastics has remained low. These plastics are normal treated as combustible waste. It is not only in the recycling process that a great deal of plastic waste is generated, even in the manufacturing process approximately 5% of plastic ends up on the scrap heap.
Method for cable recycling
Thanks to their high quality and long working life, cable plastics are eminently suited to recycling. Methods have been developed to separate and upgrade the various plastics to produce raw materials for use in new products, including a method for recycling cross-linked polyethylene (PEX).
This method has been tested and developed in collaboration with Axjo Plastic and NKT in Falun. At Axjo Plastic, PEX waste from the cable industry is sorted, ground, mixed with polypropylene (PP) and injection moulded to make cable drums.
Today, recycled PEX from cables is used for large cable drums. The intention is to solely use recycled PEX and PP for cable drums. This costs approximately half of the price of new materials, as well as saving approximately two kilograms of CO2 per kilogram of recycled plastic. Jacob Nilsson of Axjo is positive regarding the collaboration.
Return system for reuse and recycling
Axjo has introduced a return system for used cable drums, which can be reused multiple times and, once damaged, recycled for materials to make new drums.