How are films recycled into films?


Ecoo closes the loop for PE

In a world that strives for sustainability, we cannot overstress the importance of responsible waste management. Ecoo, a pioneering Belgian company with 30 years’ expertise in the recycling of plastics, makes a significant contribution to this effort. At their new plant in Beringen, the company recycles PE films into raw material to make new films. Most of the input comes from the blue bag: plastic films, bags and outer packaging from household packaging waste. But how exactly is this done? In this blog, you will take a deep dive into the steps of the innovative film-to-film recycling process.

Step 1: Sorting into the blue bag

The journey begins at home, where citizens play a crucial role in the recycling process. By correctly sorting PMD packaging, including films, in the blue bag, citizens can save 23 kg of residual waste per year. This simple but effective step lays the bases for a sustainable recycling chain. 

Step 2: To the sorting centres

The blue bags, filled with PMD, are collected at home and transported to one of Belgium's five ultramodern sorting centres. There the PMD packaging is meticulously sorted into flows of 16 different forms of waste, including PE film. The film is then sent to ecoo for specialist recycling.

Step 3: Preparation for the recycling process

When they arrive at ecoo, the bales of film are opened in the storage area, cut and resorted using infrared cameras to remove the latest contamination. 

Step 4: Washing en drying 

The films are then thoroughly washed in several stages. The float-sink process allows for the elimination of density-based by-products such as labels. The water used is recycled in a closed loop through the various stages of the washing process. 
After the final wash, the film is dried. A centrifuge or mechanical dryer removes the residual water, followed by thermal drying with hot air. Finally, the dried film is passed through a fan to a buffer silo.

Step 5: Agglomeration and extrusion

In this step, agglomerators use friction to compress the film into compressed pellets or agglomerates. Friction creates heat. From here, the pellets go to a cooling tower.   
The agglomerates are then mixed with additives according to their application and melted in an extrusion machine. The liquid material passes through a microfilter and is converted into granules through a rotary blade and a granulator. After quality control, the granules are ready for delivery. 

Step 6: From ecoo to your home

The granules of ecoo, which are the result of a meticulous recycling process, are then put back on the market so that they can be transformed back into packaging or other products in the form of bin bags for example, and find themselves with citizens once again.

The ecoo commitment to sustainable development

The partnership with the Biostoom power plant is essential. For example, ecoo supplies Biostoom with pulp and sludge from the processes as input to the power plant. Biostoom in turn supplies residual heat for drying the pellets.  

The ecoo PE film recycling plant in Beringen is an example of innovation and eco-efficiency. By using cutting-edge technology, ecoo closes the loop of PE film, transforming it into valuable raw materials. What is more, recycling in Belgium allows the creation of sustainable local jobs, the proximity of materials, the stability of local markets and the implementation of solid partnerships with local stakeholders. Find out about the entire process by watching this video: