Tried and tested: keeping the recycling wheels turning

The waste sector is working towards the circular economy. Vlakglas Recycling Nederland, ARN and Maltha/Van Gansewinkel show what the waste industry is all about: closing recycling loops. The three companies say how they contribute towards the circular economy.

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Waste companies learn from each other about the circular economy – Part 3

Tried and tested: keeping the recycling wheels turning

The waste sector is working towards the circular economy. Vlakglas Recycling Nederland, ARN and Maltha/Van Gansewinkel show what the waste industry is all about: closing recycling loops. The three companies say how they contribute towards the circular economy.

By René Didde  Translation by Derek Middleton  ©copyright

Right next to the A15 motorway near Tiel is an imposing factory. Since 2012 ARN has been separating valuable raw materials from disused cars here. The members of the Recycling and Collection Section of the DWMA, who have come together to learn from each other’s circular technologies, are shown an intriguing system of sieves, windshifters, gravity separator tables, hammer mills, water baths, magnets, eddy current separators and a machine which separates wood, plastic and rubber by making use of the differences in their elasticity (bouncing properties). ARN director Arie de Jong enthusiastically leads them on a tour of the site, grabbing a handful of pure copper granules from a sack and further on pointing to the still warm aluminium particles.

Companies learn each other's recipes for closing recycling loops

Thousand kilogram car

They look at sacks and bins full of fibres, copper and other minerals, including surprisingly large amounts of sand and stones, and of course a whole range of plastics. ‘This is all that is left of a car weighing a thousand kilograms,’ laughs De Jong, ‘after 240 kilograms of usable second-hand parts, 60 kilograms of liquids, the tyres and the battery have been removed by car dismantlers and 590 kilograms of steel have been stripped by shredder companies.’

Post-shredder plant

The remaining 170 kilograms is safely processed in ARN’s post-shredder plant in Tiel. ARN is an abbreviation of the company’s original name, Auto Recycling Nederland. It was established by the car industry in the Netherlands to carry out the sectors producer responsibility tasks. Bicycle and car industry association RAI Vereniging, garage association Bovag, damage repair association Vereniging Focwa Schadeherstel and dismantlers association Stiba thought it made more sense to take up the recycling challenge themselves than wait for government to regulate for it. They first introduced a waste disposal charge of 250 guilders on the price of every car; today this is the recycling charge of 45 euros.

Outstanding recycling statistics

This has been a success. The car recycling industry used to consist of very many small businesses without any leadership, but is now for 85% a well-oiled and certified sector that can point to some outstanding recycling statistics. ‘Weight for weight, 85% of the material in every car is recycled,’ says De Jong. ‘If you add to this the energy recovered from the incineration of the residual waste, the total comes to more than 95%.

From a 1000 kilogram car, 170 kilograms are processed in the post-shredder plant. Plastics are recycled as granules in the manufacture of car parts. Copper, aluminium and steel are given a new life in new products.

New products

The plastics, such as PP, PE and ABS, are recycled as granules in the manufacture of car parts, and the valuable metals copper, aluminium and steel are given a new life in new products. ‘The fibres will soon be used as ancillary materials in the production of sheet materials,’ explains De Jong. A not unimportant part of the car, the windscreen, ends up among the residual materials. ‘Technically it is possible to separate the side windows and the coated laminated glass, but the costs far outweigh the benefits,’ says De Jong. ‘As soon as the glass industry places more value on this glass, collecting and treating it will not be a problem.’

Recycling flat glass

At the same meeting, Louise Soares, project manager at Vlakglas Recycling Nederland (VRN), an organisation that coordinates flat glass recycling in the Netherlands, explains that flat glass recycling also helps to create the circular economy. Flat glass is an umbrella term for the types of glass used in homes and non-residential buildings, in items like windows, mirrors and doors. ‘Glass is an ideal recycling product,’ says Soares. ‘It can be endlessly recycled without any loss of quality. This saves raw materials, energy and CO2 emissions and, thanks to the well organised collection infrastructure, it cuts costs too.’

Flat glass manufacturers

VRN was set up by the Dutch glass manufacturers as a voluntary recycling scheme to meet their producer responsibilities. Soares proudly declares that the scheme began as a trial in 2002 and by 2014 had no less than 359 public collection points for flat glass at glass companies, waste collectors, window frame manufacturers and other locations. There are also 456 non-public collection points at recycling centres or companies, which hire containers for their own use. Moreover, in 2014 VRN also collected flat glass from 354 renovation and demolition sites across the country.

Flat to Flat
VRN works with Maltha Glasrecycling in the Flat to Flat project run by AGC Glass Europe. The project, which is supported by a Life+ grant from the European Union, aims to develop an innovative method for recycling and upcycling glass and other waste materials in the production of flat glass. Florens Slob of Van Gansewinkel, Maltha’s parent company, gives some examples by way of explanation: ‘We have developed an ingenious process for recycling laminated and wire reinforced glass by stripping off the glass layer by layer with a milling wheel,’ says Slob. ‘This removes the glass from the PVB layer. The stream of glass fragments looks just like a stream of diamonds.’ The glass can then be recycled. The PVB is already being recycled in high-grade applications by Interface and Shark Solutions in Lommel. Slob is opposed to the idea of shredding the windscreens with the rest of the car, as happens now. Although removing the glass separately is more expensive, recycling the glass properly delivers a significant environmental benefit.

Waste disposal charge

Most of the costs of collecting and recycling flat glass are covered by the waste disposal charge. Each manufacturer or importer that markets insulating double glass in the Netherlands must pay a waste disposal charge and take part in the recycling system. An independent office collects the charges and maintains the accounts to ensure confidentiality.

Falling collection volumes

The considerable achievement of recycling 69,000 tonnes of flat glass in 2014 has saved almost 3 million kilograms of CO2 emissions. ‘This is actually less than the previous year, when almost 75,000 tonnes were collected, not to mention the record 89,000 tonnes in 2011,’ adds Soares. The economic crisis, particularly in the building industry, has had an adverse effect on the collection effort. In 2015 the VRN expects to collect a similar amount as in 2014.

Awareness raising

‘Fifteen per cent of the collected glass is used in the manufacture of new flat glass,’ says Soares, ‘13% is used in the glass wool industry and 71% is used for the manufacture of glass bottles and jars.’ However, there is much that can still be improved, according to the VRN. ‘Things can go wrong during demolition. Whole buildings are sometimes demolished with windows and all, and then none of the glass can be recycled, even with post-separation,’ says Soares. An estimated 10,000–15,000 tonnes of glass were lost this way in 2011. The VRN expects the amended building regulations and new trials with various participating companies, including manufacturers, waste processers, building contractors and recyclers, should raise awareness of this problem.

Arie de Jong (ARN):"Weight for weight, 85% of the material in every car is recycled."
Louise Soares (Vlakglas Recycling Nederland):"Glass can be endlessly recycled without any loss of quality."
Florens Slob (Van Gansewinkel):"We use an ingenious process to recycle laminated and wire reinforced glass."

Vision DWMA

Learning from each other

The waste and recycling sector is the motor of the circular economy. To learn from each other the companies in the Recycling and Collection Section of the DWMA present their best practices during expert meetings. The companies share their expertise and findings to move towards closed loop recycling and the circular economy.