Regular operation for closed-loop recycling of EPS insulation materials

The first industrial plant for the recycling of EPS insulation materials goes into regular operation: the innovative recycling concept PSLoop enables the recycling of HBCD-containing polystyrene foams on an industrial scale and testifies to the great innovative strength of the industry.

Röhrnbach/Terneuzen (NL), June 2023. After the German EPS Converters (GEC) Group rescued the Dutch PolyStyreneLoop plant from insolvency last year, it has now been able to go into regular operation. The plant, which has since gone by the name PSLoop, is the first industrial facility for recycling EPS insulation materials from demolition and renovation work. “It was a tough job to get the plant ready for regular operation,” says Holger Lübke, managing director of Karl Bachl Kunststoffverarbeitung GmbH &. Co. KG and one of the shareholders of GEC Group. “For the future, however, this is an important step in order to fulfill our responsibility as an insulation manufacturer also in recycling.”

In 2022, GEC Group had rescued the Dutch PolyStyreneLoop plant from insolvency, making it a wholly owned subsidiary of GEC Group. More than 17 million euros were invested in the construction of the plant. In addition, the project was supported by partners from business and politics as well as subsidies from the European Union, “because the public interest in an industry solution was and is great,” explains Guido Brohlburg, Managing Director of BROHLBURG Dämmstoff- u. Recyclingwerke and also a shareholder in the GEC Group. The third shareholder is Reinhard Pfaller, Managing Director of RYGOL Dämmstoffe.

A year before being rescued from insolvency, the lighthouse project had succeeded in recycling EPS insulation material containing HBCD for the first time in history. HBCD has been used as a flame retardant in foam insulation boards since the 1960s and was long considered the best solution for implementing national fire safety regulations. However, alternative flame retardants are now being used, as HBCD was banned in 2016. However, this ban also meant that tens of thousands of tons of polystyrene (PS) foam waste containing HBCD could no longer be recycled as usual. Thanks to PSLoop’s innovative recycling concept, it is now possible to recycle HBCD-containing PS foam on an industrial scale. The result is a fully recycled PS raw material that is used for the production of new EPS insulation products. In addition, the process recovers bromine as an important resource.

The mechanical recycling process currently allows Terneuzen to recycle 3,000 tons of HBCD-containing material per year. The maximum expansion stage is 8,000 tons per year. In this way, CO2 emissions are reduced by up to 50 percent and the environment and climate are protected. “In a circular economy, we want to use resources for as long as possible and process them after their service life so that they can be reused as raw materials for new materials,” explains Richard Geevers, Managing Director of PSLoop. “The success of this project and the extensive use of the innovative technology will result in the implementation in Europe of the best technology currently available for recycling the growing waste volumes of PS foams.”

Source: GEC Group GmbH & Co. KG

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