Polypropylene –a basic plastic with potential to be recycled without adding virgin material


Polypropylene is along with polyethylene and polyester one of the most common plastics in our society. Until now, however, the recycling process has been synonym with impoverished properties without a considerable amount of virgin material added.
Polypropylene is a large scale plastic which is relatively inexpensive to produce and has properties well suited for many types of everyday use. The plastic is very common in for example interiors in the automotive industry, but also in food packaging where PVC largely is replaced. Polypropylene is also commonly used in different types of pipes, primarily non pressurized pipes like those out from buildings, but also tap water pipes
Polypropylene is a relatively sensitive type of plastic which quickly loses properties when it is recycled. It loses mechanical properties to a high extent when it is subjected to stress in an extruder, which often means that a large amount of virgin material is added for the plastic to have new application areas and be commercially viable in its recycled form. The viscosity, its fluid ability in melted form, is what is mostly affected in the recycling process and what will determine which application areas the plastic may have. If polypropylene is very fluid, it is basically only deemed for injection molding, but the challenge has been to make it more viscous which would make it subject for entirely new recycling streams. 
Nexam Chemical has found a solution where we successfully can adjust the viscosity properties in polypropylene making the plastic more viscous by adding a NEXAMITE R201 . The technology, where Nexam Chemical has filed for a patent, shows equal results to what is today achieved by adding virgin material, and opens for far higher quality on recycled polypropylene, for more demanding application areas, but with significantly less environmental impact.
Along with the European Union’s New Green Deal, we see a heavily increased interest in recycled basic plastics like polypropylene, where the market is demanding smart and cost efficient solutions which makes plastics more recyclable with far less use of virgin material. If also relatively simple plastics can be recycled to high quality plastics, new possibilities will arise which in the end will decrease the demand of newly produced plastics.
Nexam Chemical is of course following both regulatory and commercial terms for recycled plastics very closely, and our solution within polypropylene is an exciting step towards meeting both high demands on quality and due standards. We are convinced that we, together with the plastics industry, have the possibility to reduce environmental impact while maintaining or improving the properties in recycled materials, also concerning relatively simple large scale plastics like polypropylene.