Can film be recycled into good quality pellets?

Ambigroup Reciclagem S.A. is a recycler of agricultural film, used agricultural irrigation tubing and other post-consumer waste in Portugal. The input materials are naturally very moist and contaminated – a challenge which the EREMA Recycling system masters, especially when it comes to recycling them into pellets. The TVE machine is a key quality element for the company in fulfilling the requirements of its customers in the film and tube industry. Double Disc, Air Flush Module and Laserfilter are useful features, so the task at hand can be handled effectively, such as

“Take a look at these stubborn contaminants, they are typical for our material.” Ana Margarida Ribeiro, general manager at Ambigroup Reciclagem in Chamusca, points to used LDPE films. These films come from farms throughout Portugal and are reprocessed by the recycling specialists to make valuable recyclate. A mixture of sand, soil, grass and straw sticks to the films.

“The SOREMA washing plant removes most of these contaminants from the plastic. Any remaining contaminants are then removed reliably by the EREMA Laserfilter in the extrusion process. It is extremely important for us that the filter also removes aluminium contaminants very effectively.”

Mastering moisture 
However, the input material the EREMA machine has to deal with is not only contaminated, it is also wet. When the washed film flakes are lying on the conveyor belt of the recycling machine, the residual moisture is still up to 12 per cent.

“Thanks to the EREMA system we can achieve very good and stable quality of pellets, despite the high degree of moisture; which also tends to fluctuate considerably,” says Ribeiro. This is made possible by the cutter-compactor, which prepares the material for extrusion. In addition to the normal predrying function, which every EREMA machine handles as standard in the cutter/compactor, it was also equipped with a Double Disc and Air Flush Module. These systems increase drying performance, capacity and plant service life; plus they reduce energy consumption as a whole. “Energy prices in Portugal have risen rapidly in recent years. It is good to know, that with the EREMA machine we have a very energy-efficient solution, with which we can save considerable costs.

Read more: Shareholders support reduction in plastic

Resource efficiency counts
The economic use of resources at Ambigroup Reciclagem, however, is not just confined to energy. It is a general credo at the company. The water required by the company, for example, is also used in a closed-cycle system to save resources. “On the whole our recycling operations are organised in such a way that we can carry out the required process steps with relatively little space and labour,” says Ribeiro. During a normal shift the EREMA machine is working without any operators for the majority of the time. “It is very easy to use and process the washed flakes, feeding fully automatically out of the silo. The system’s high degree of automation helps us to keep the costs down,” continues Ribeiro.

Quality is the key
Besides the focus on post-consumer films and used LDPE irrigation tubes, Ambigroup Reciclagem in Chamusca also uses the EREMA machine to process HDPE crates and containers. “The properties of the recycled pellets are very good and we achieve consistant values. This stability is important for our customers, because they also need a consistently high quality for their products,” says Ribeiro in conclusion.

The strict quality philosophy of the recycler is supported by a inhouse laboratory which continuously analyses the recyclate produced, ensuring it has the required properties. Customers are primarily producers who use the recycled pellets to make high-quality films or conduits for the electrical and construction industry.

Opportunity for Australia to efficiently recycle Agricultural PE film
Australia has a large and thriving agricultural industry. There are many untapped opportunities to recycle the discarded agricultural and hay-bale PE film after each season. Traditional and simple recycling processes prohibit effective processing of this material, due to the high level of abrasive and organic contamination. So there is a considerable untapped opportunity for plastics film recycling.