Looking for new uses of used plastics

  • 2010-12-08
  • By Ella Karapetyan

CONSUMER SOCIETY: Companies are finding new ways to use old plastic, including turning it into construction materials.

TALLINN - The Environmental Investments Center gave the green light to seven waste recycling projects, which in total will receive 91,756,676 kroons (5.8 million euros) of support from the European Cohesion Fund. Of the seven projects, three are focused directly on using plastic waste as raw material in production or in improving the sorting of plastic waste.

Every year about 20,000 tons of plastic waste is collected in Estonia and, depending on the degree of soiling, the waste is deposited in landfills, burned as waste fuel or sent back to circulation through recycling. As plastic waste to be used as raw material in recycling is generally exported from Estonia, the recycling of plastic largely depends on foreign markets and the prices in those markets and also involves the cost of transport of waste in both the financial and environmental impact context. The European Union, including Estonia, is consistently moving towards as extensive reuse of waste as possible and the greatest objective is to reduce the generation of waste and use the waste generated as a production resource, instead of depositing it in landfills.

One of the newly financed plastic recycling projects is Bestor Group’s plan to start producing various roofing materials and accessories from plastic waste. That would allow for the recirculation of an average of 2,400 tons of plastic waste. Bestor Group plans to use the awarded grant to construct a production building for a plastic processing plant and to procure the equipment necessary for reprocessing plastic waste and producing building materials.

The plastic waste problem is also addressed by Nelitaht OU, which plans to introduce a technology for using soiled plastic waste for producing raw materials for the plastic industry. The project includes an improvement of the current waste sorting system, by which the company will use infrared technology to sort and pick plastic packaging waste suitable for reuse in less time, to a higher quality and in larger quantities. The grant will also be used to procure a washing, drying and packaging line, which will allow the company to re-circulate soiled packages currently sent for burning.

The total budget amounts to 140 million kroons, of which 70 million kroons is intended for legal persons founded by local governments for establishing waste management centers, reloading stations or waste plants. The other half of the budget is intended for businesses registered in Estonia for developing the recycling of bio-waste collected by type, as well as for the recycling of waste, for which targets have been established in legal acts.

Earlier this year, the Environmental Investments Center approved five waste recovery projects, the most interesting ones of which are the intention of Rexest Grupp to start producing construction materials out of plastic waste, and the plan of Horizon Tissue to give the collected used paper packaging a new life as soft tissue paper. The five projects will be granted nearly 93.8 million kroons from the European Union Cohesion Fund, which will be supplemented by the beneficiaries’ self-financing.

With the Rexest Grupp’s project, 2,400 tons of plastic packaging waste a year can be saved from being deposited in landfills, and recycled instead. That would save depositing resources and reduce the need to build new landfills or depository areas, thereby reducing environmental pollution. Upon the project technology being developed further, other hazardous waste can be handled in the future (including medicinal products, oil shale ash and asbestos). The waste processing line will be set up at Vaatsa landfill and the construction materials production line at Mao.

Horizon Tissue plans to start producing soft tissue paper mainly out of paper and carton packaging. Until now, that kind of paper has been imported to Estonia. According to Horizon Tissue, which produces tissue and toilet paper in Kehra, north Estonia, the company intends to open the first Estonian paper recycling plant by midsummer 2011.

The project will among other things help alleviate the concern felt by Estonian packaging undertakings and waste treatment enterprises in connection with the lack of paper packaging recycling possibilities in Estonia and the related problems of waste export. The launch of the new soft tissue paper line at Kehra will mean that 15,000 tons of paper and carton packaging waste a year will be turned into 12,000 tons of soft tissue paper, some of which will be exported.

The remaining three financed projects support the establishment of a waste treatment center in Laane-Viru County, the development of bio-waste recovery at Torma landfill and the construction of a bio-waste treatment complex in the territory of Tallinn Landfill. The total amount of financing applied for in 11 projects is over 160 million Estonian kroons, which would allow the company to produce raw material in Estonia instead of importing it from Finland, Sweden and Asian states and boost the production capacity of the soft tissue paper.

According to the company’s CEO, Vishal Tulsian, this would enable the company to at least double the turnover of the plant which, for this year, is planned to amount to 100 million kroons. The new plant would create jobs for 50 people and around the same number of jobs indirectly. The Kehra plant would need 15,000 tons of used paper for recycling, which forms less than a third of the 50,000-60,000 tons given by Estonia into recycling.

According to the owner of Estonian security services company Pristis, Indrek Sepp, along with the company’s partners they are establishing a plant for processing used car batteries in Slantsy, which will be the first such plant in northwest Russia. Sepp stated that in the coming days, a state-initiated expert investigation will be launched on the plant Ecorusmetal. “The project is among the most favored ones in the Leningrad oblast in Russia, alongside recycling of tires and old vehicles,” said the plant’s project manager and shareholder Aare Manna.

The plant cost nearly 250 million kroons. Ecorusmetal will start recovering lead, plastic and acid from the batteries and Estonian entrepreneurs would like to launch operations in the plant in a few months. Talks to include extra investors from Belgium and Russia are under way, which is why the exact date for plant opening isn’t set. Manna said that among investors, they want to include Novye Tehnologii, the largest car battery collecting company in St. Petersburg.
According to Manna, 50,000 tons of used car batteries will be needed to produce nearly 28 tons of lead a year, which will be sold to Russian car battery producers. The plant will provide jobs for 100 people.