Upcycling PET Bottles
In the "UpcyclePET" project, Easicomp GmbH, the Fraunhofer Institute for Structural Durability and System Reliability LBF, and the Institute for Applied Ecology (Öko-Insitut e.V.) are developing an integrated production process for glass-fibre-reinforced PET (polyethylene terephthalate) components. This involves using a pultrusion process to reinforce the PET plastic with long glass fibres for a technological upgrade. This approach combines the mechanical advantages of the especially strong long glass fibres with the favourable properties of PET, such as its low swelling capacity and its good dimensional stability. "The distinctive feature of this approach is that it combines two process phases that are decoupled in modern day practice and specifically customises the properties of the recycled PET used by means of additives and modification", explains Dr. Frank Schönberger from the Fraunhofer LBF. "We don’t want to recycle used PET simply to make beverage bottles. It should be turned into high-quality, durable products instead. This idea is known as upcycling", explains Dr.-Ing. Tapio Harmia, managing director of Easicomp. According to Dr. Volker Strubel, the project’s coordinator, this could reduce the amount of polyamide plastics required to produce car components such as engine mounts and mounting supports.
All required process steps are performed in the same plant, greatly reducing production costs. Using the example of a lightweight component from the automotive industry, the project team evaluates the potential for technological use of the material and reveals possible ecological and economic benefits. Dr. Andreas Köhler from the Institute for Applied Ecology has this to say about it: "We expect the UpcyclePET project to boost innovation for high-quality recycling of plastic waste in Germany. Upcycling PET waste promises clear advantages for the environment, because it produces long-lived products and can replace plastic types that have a much higher greenhouse gas potential."