CHEMICAL RECYCLING AT FINNFOAM
Finnfoam is building a chemical plastic recycling facility in Salo, where used and even dirty expanded plastic insulation materials can be recycled in an energy efficient and cost-effective manner to be used as raw material for insulation products. With chemical recycling of polystyrene, i.e., XPS and EPS insulation materials, Finnfoam’s product will comprise more recycled materials than ever before. The facility is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.
The recycling process was, among other things, designed to take into account waste thermal insulation materials collected from worksites, which are often dirty. The materials may, for example, include sand, concrete, or urethane adhesive residue. During the recycling process, polystyrene is dissolved into a fully liquid form using a new, innovative solvent, after which any impurities can be filtered out easily. The solvent is purified and then vaporized and returned to the process cycle, and the re-solidified polystyrene is granulated to be used as raw material for manufacturing insulation products.
PATENTS SOUGHT FOR THE FRUIT-BASED SOLVENT MIXTURE AND RECYCLING SYSTEM
The chemical process, including the purification and vaporization equipment and solvents, is the result of a three-year development process. The development was carried out in long-term cooperation between Finnfoam and Brightplus. The initial idea was to determine the best method for recycling a thermoplastic polymer, such as polystyrene, as energy efficiently as possible.
A chemical recycling process based on dissolution is much preferrable to traditional mechanical processes, as physical impurities can be removed more easily from the resulting solution. Dissolving plastic to be used as a construction material on a molecular level makes it possible to reuse the material in the manufacture of insulation products. The process uses a mixture of natural solvents based on certain edible fruits.
PS PROCESSING OY PARTICIPATES IN THE COLLECTION OF MATERIALS
In addition to the purity of the fractions, the collection of a sufficient volume of material is also a significant challenge in the recycling of plastics. In 2022, Finnfoam acquired a fifty percent stake in PS Processing Oy from Laitila, as the company specializes in the collection and recycling of EPS plastics and now offers Finnfoam existing channels to do the same. Previously, PS Processing sent significant quantities of material to other countries for recycling. As the material can now be circulated within the domestic market, its carbon footprint will become significantly smaller as transport needs are reduced.
RECYCLING SOLVES VARIOUS ISSUES LINKED WITH PLASTICS
We at Finnfoam believe that plastic is often criticized unnecessarily, as it is a safe, durable, and affordable material. Plastic is a genuinely recyclable and durable good, and effective recycling of plastic offers a solution to many of the issues the material is associated with. For example, in terms of its properties and resource efficiency, plastic is an unparalleled material for thermal insulation products where safe moisture performance is key. Many of the issues pertaining to plastic are primarily caused by what happens with the material once it has been used.