7 Fraunhofer Institutes want to pave the way for a chemical industry that requires fewer fossil raw materials and produces fewer emissions. They are pooling their expertise in the lighthouse project “Waste4Future“ to develop new solutions for this goal, from the raw material base to material flows and process engineering right to the end of a product's life cycle.
The “Waste4Future“ project therefore aims to create new opportunities for recycling plastics in order to make the carbon they contain available as a “green“ resource for the chemical industry. The outcome of the project, which will run until the end of 2023, is expected to be innovative recycling technologies for complex waste that can be used to obtain high-quality recyclates.
Specifically, the development of a holistic, entropy-based assessment model is planned (entropy = measure of the disorder of a system), which will reorganize the recycling chain from process-guided to material-guided. A new type of sorting identifies which materials and in particular which plastic fractions are contained in the waste. Based on this analysis, the total stream is separated and a targeted decision is then made for the resulting sub-streams as to which recycling route is the most technically, ecologically and economically sensible for this specific waste quantity. What cannot be further utilized by means of mechanical recycling is available for chemical recycling, always with the aim of preserving the maximum possible amount of carbon compounds. Burning waste containing plastics at the end of the chain is thus eliminated.
Suitable sensor technology must be developed that can reliably identify materials in the sorting system. Machine learning methods will also be used, and the aim is to link them to a digital twin that represents the properties of the processed materials.
The participating institutes are Fraunhofer Institute for Microstructure of Materials and Systems IMWS (lead), Fraunhofer Institute for Nondestructive Testing IZFP, Fraunhofer Institute for Materials Recycling and Resource Strategy IWKS, Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB, Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques FHR, Fraunhofer Institute for Structural Durability and System Reliability LBF and Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging IVV. All institutes are in close exchange with companies from the chemical industry and plastics processing, waste management, recycling plant construction and recycling plant operation, in order to consider the needs of industry in a targeted manner and thus increase the chances of rapid application of the results achieved.