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FEATURE Nonwovens

The recycling of nonwovens scrap

Starlinger talks about why companies decide to recycle their nonwovens production scrap and whether this helps them meet their sustainability expectations

In 2003 and 2004, supplier of machinery for producing woven plastic packaging, plastic recycling and refinement,

Starlinger, installed two of its first recycling lines for nonwovens production scrap at nonwovens producers Don & Low, a member of Thrace Group in the UK, and Softbond in Argentina. Also, last year, Global Nonwovens India made a Starlinger recycling line part of the equipment in its new Mumbai nonwovens production plant. Already more than 10 years ago, waste

reduction and cost saving were major reasons why nonwovens producers decided to recycle their production scrap. “We aimed to recover the cost of polypropylene by re- consuming the scrap in-house or selling the recovered waste in pellet form to consumers in the industry,” says Keith Galloway, general manager at Don & Low. Alessio Romanelli from Softbond confirms this. “Our target was to add value to the scrap from our main production lines. We use about half of the recycled polypropylene again in our main production process and the rest we sell to local injection moulding companies.” Both companies were able to meet their

environmental goals, and according to Don & Low, some of its customers specifically ask for recycled content in their product. Sustainability was also one of the reasons why Global Nonwovens decided to include a recycling line in its new plant.

“It will improve efficiency in the operational cycle and contribute to sustainability,” the company says, and adds, “with the effective utilisation of resources in mind, recycling is an important factor regarding the internally generated waste.”

A challenging task The range of nonwovens scrap that is recycled is wide, and its shape varies greatly. It is necessary to recycle it into pellets like virgin resin in order to make it suitable for re-use. The quality of the regranulate is important: A production stop caused by inadequate regranulate is too costly and jeopardises the economic benefits of recycling and reusing the production scrap. Softbond manufactures polypropylene nonwoven cloth in various weights in a spunbond process and recycles almost all of its production scrap. “We actually produce around 1,000 tons of spunbond per month, with nine per cent of this going into recycling as scrap,” says Romanelli. Softbond reprocesses between 30 and 40 tons of the recycled material in nonwovens production, the rest is sold on the market. Don & Low, a producer of woven and nonwoven polyolefin technical textiles for the construction and industrial sector, recycles all of its polypropylene spunbond scrap. It stems from products made for applications like carpet tile backing, furniture and bedding and also includes composites that contain polypropylene materials.

“On average, we generate 10 per cent of mixed polypropylene production waste which is recycled by our Starlinger machine. Internally, we reuse 65 per cent of the recycled polypropylene, while 35 per cent is sold to converters for downstream products such as plant pots,” Galloway explains. “Depending on applications and physical specifications of the product, we can add up to 50 per cent recycled content to our lines without loss of conversion efficiency.” Global Nonwovens, in turn, aims to cater to the hygiene sector and will produce different types of SS (spunbond-spunbond) and SMS (spunbond-meltblown-spunbond) fabric; it plans to reuse part of the recycled granulate in other business areas and sell the rest on the market. Starlinger recycling technology offers two systems for the recycling of nonwoven production scrap. While the recoSTAR basic recycling line is especially suitable for wet and hygroscopic materials and pre-shredded scrap, the universal recycling line processes a wide variety of polymers and is suited for mixed and hard-to-grind materials. The recoSTAR universal 65 (seen left) at Don & Low is equipped with a reel feeder that is directly mounted on the single-shaft cutter. Nonwoven scraps in different colours and sizes are processed and the line is in operation five days per week producing regranulate at a rate of 120kg per hour. Softbond is running its recoSTAR universal 65 line around the clock. The nonwovens scrap is fed loose via a conveyor belt into the single-shaft cutter. The line produces 3,000kg of polypropylene regranulate per day in offline operation. Meanwhile, the recycling line to be installed at Global Nonwovens is a recoSTAR universal 105 VAC. It is equipped with a nip roll feeder and features an additional dosing unit for compounding – an option for value-adding in the future – as well as a corresponding big bag unloading station. The production output ranges between 380-480kg per hour. 28 November 2015

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