Project objective: The aim of this project is to fully evaluate the feasibility of carpets made with PLA, including their recycling.
Project Partners: DyeCoo Textile Systems, Donkersloot Trade, Phenomena
Project Timeline: 1 April 2020 – 30 Juni 2021
Flooring is one of the largest sources of waste that cannot be recycled worldwide. Every year, approximately 5 billion m2 of carpet and rugs are produced worldwide, in Europe alone approximately 1.6 billion m2 /year with a market value of approximately €11 billion. Anthesis Consulting Group claims in their 2018 report that the EU is the world’s second largest market for carpets and rugs after the US and the EU is also one of the largest producers. The demand for carpets and rugs in the EU is almost 1.8 million tonnes (Mt) per year, while about 1.6 Mt per year is generated as waste. Of the carpet waste generated each year in the EU, the vast majority is probably landfilled, much of it incinerated and only a few percent recycled. Within the floor coverings market, carpets have a share of about 30%, so about 0.5 Mt, and this share is growing rapidly because many consumers are switching to hard floors with carpets on top. Nearly the entire carpet market is still made from fossil fuel-based plastics, dyed with methods that require the use of a lot of water and chemicals, and after use the carpets are incinerated or landfilled.
There is huge progression in the production volume of bio-based plastics, of which the volume of polylactic acid (also known as poly-lactic acid or PLA) is the largest. The worldwide production of PLA is still growing, at an increasingly competitive price, and is now starting to grow to such an extent that separating it from the large stream of waste will pay off. PLA has a chemical structure that makes chemical recycling of PLA via hydrolysis relatively easy on the one hand, and on the other hand a very wide range of technical properties can be achieved with PLA. PLA has since been used as fiber, fabrics and knits, foil, foam, injection molding, self-reinforcing composites and even honeycomb panels. If PLA can therefore be sorted from the waste stream after the use phase, it is possible to make the raw material available for mechanical or chemical recycling.
The infrastructure for chemical recycling in the Netherlands is developing rapidly, bringing the entire chain together, partly driven by the Circular Economy plans and objectives of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. This concerns activities in, for example, polyester, which chemically has a comparable process for recycling to that required for PLA. Arapaha BV recently completed a study on the chemical recycling of PLA, with the main conclusion that the hydrolysis of PLA and purification of the formed lactic acid is very doable (even considerably easier than for polyester), even on a smaller scale infrastructure is already in place in the Benelux for mechanical and chemical recycling, and that there is sufficient interest in forming a consortium across the entire chain to achieve a world-class PLA chemical recycling plant. This project is not part of this application, but it does support the closure of the entire chain of this project and Kiduara BV will act as coordinator between the two projects.
All in all, an enormous mountain of waste is being produced from floor coverings, there are very good alternatives based on bio-based plastics with a very low CO2 footprint, and recycling has been developed to such an extent that a truly closed-chain approach is starting to become a reality.
Hence this project to close the chain for fully recyclable carpets based on bio-based plastics.
We are very grateful for the support we have received from the Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland (RVO)