Frequently asked questions (FAQ) about Plastcon

1. What is pyrolysis?

Pyrolysis is a process in which material is exposed to high temperatures in an oxygen-free environment. In the case of the Plastcon system, the material can be plastic waste of all types from both industry and households.

In Plastcon, the pyrolysis process makes it possible to thermally recycle plastic items – and, importantly, to do it without any pre-treatment of the plastic. The result is chemical and physical separation of the different molecules in the plastic, and in that way the plastic waste is turned into pyrolysis oil, gas and carbon black. 

2. What types of plastic can be thermally recycled?

Generally speaking, almost all types of plastic can be thermally recycled. As a rule of thumb, from an energy efficiency and economic perspective, we should always try, if possible, to recycle plastic waste mechanically first. Thermal recycling is well suited to contaminated, mixed, problematic and/or compound and multilayer plastic waste streams.

The Plastcon system is less demanding in terms of how clean the plastic waste needs to be, and it can take over in the cases where plastic waste is unsuited for mechanical recycling.

If we look at the 7 known types of plastic in household waste, the system can chemically recycle all types with the right mix. Plastic types like PVC and PET do not contain much oil and will, in large amounts, produce lower oil yields and potential process deviations. But our robust Plastcon system is designed to never break or suffer downtime, even if these types of plastic should occur.

3. Which products are created by thermal recycling?

Thermal recycling of plastic waste results in three outputs:

  1. Pyrolysis oil, which can be used in the production of new polymers by the chemical industry, as an alternative to conventional resources. The oil can also be turned into marine gas oil (MGO) and naphtha. The MGO can be used as a more sustainable fuel by the maritime sector. Naphtha, like the pyrolysis oil, can be used by the chemical industry to produce new polymers.
  2. Carbon Black, which can be used for filaments, colour pigment and/or energy recovery in different contexts. The purity of this material is highly dependent on the plastic waste used. It is, however, possible to reprocess this by-product, whereby it can be brought back into the value chain and be directly reused in new materials.
  3. Synthetic gas/syngas, which can be used in boilers, engines, turbines or similar equipment, converting the gas into electricity and/or heating.

A typical batch of household plastic waste will generate 75% oil, 15% gas and 10% Carbon Black.

4. What is the difference between mechanical and chemical recycling?

Mechanical recycling is the typical way to recycle plastic waste. Here, the material is cut into small pieces, before it is used to produce new plastic products.

Items like remote controls, plastic bottles and toothbrushes are made of many different types of plastic, and it is necessary to separate these before it is possible to mechanically recycle them. Moreover, it is typically only possible to go through mechanical recycling 2-3 times at the most. After that, it is simply not possible to put the plastic material through the process again, and it is then left as waste.

Thermal recycling is the way Plastcon recycles plastic waste. Here, the pyrolysis process exposes the plastic waste to high temperatures in an oxygen-free environment – and that melts and vaporises the plastic mass. It can then be turned into 3 end products: pyrolysis oil, gas and carbon black.

With the thermal recycling in Plastcon, it is possible to recycle all types of plastic materials without sorting them first – and to do so an infinite amount of times. Simply put, it does not have the same limitations as mechanical recycling.

Nevertheless, mechanical recycling should always be prioritised whenever this is possible, as this generates less CO2 than thermal recycling. But when the plastic waste materials are too complex, and when the mechanical recycling rate has reached the maximum limit of 2-3 times – then thermal recycling can take over. 

5. Does the Plastcon system emit any dangerous substances?

No! Because of the smart Plastcon technology and procedure, we control all potential sources of emissions or pollution. The Plastcon system is based on dosing and controlling the plastic waste, so we will always be able to ensure safe, environment-friendly and efficient operation. 

6. What is the primary energy source for the Plastcon system?

The primary energy source for Plastcon is electricity. The plant is heated and powered by electricity. This ensures maximum oil yield and recycling rate, as we can control the pyrolysis process with extreme accuracy. The system does not need to use the energy contained in the synthetic gas to sustain operation.

Using electricity makes it possible to secure high uptime and plan the installation in a way that other equipment can take over if some fails. Furthermore, the system can heat up the plastic mass very efficiently and accurately – thereby resulting in an energy positive process. This means that the plant in Randers, specifically, converts the plastic material into pyrolysis products that contain 18 times more energy than it uses in electricity.

Electricity also results in a very low CO2 footprint, as the electricity used in the thermal recycling process can originate from renewable sources, such as wind turbines. 

7. What is the CO2 footprint of the Plastcon system?

Due to its smart design, the plant saves fossil resources and CO2 emissions with every single recycled kilogram of plastic waste. In fact, the plant saves, on average, 0.29 kg CO2 pr kg of plastic waste it chemically recycles. This is in comparison to a newly built Scandinavian incineration plant and the emissions that would come from producing oil, gas and Carbon Black by drilling up fossil fuels. A Plastcon plant converting 50 tonnes of plastic material per day will handle 16,750 tonnes per year, corresponding to 32,000 tonnes of CO2.

8. Is the Plastcon system a continuous pyrolysis process?

Yes, our Plastcon system is built on a continuous pyrolysis operation, during which Carbon Black is periodically extracted from the system. This is possible due to the efficient and innovative design of the pyrolysis reactor itself, as well as other plant-specific design features.

9. What is the size and capacity of Plastcon system?

The Plastcon facility is built on a modular setup. This makes it possible to match the size and capacity of a facility to the needs and amounts of plastic waste at the specific location. And if things change, it is easy to expand.

The capacity of a Plastcon module is 25 tonnes/day – meaning that one module handles 25 tonnes of harmful plastic every production day. It is possible to combine 2 or 3 modules to reach a capacity of 50 or 75 tonnes/day respectively.

Once a Plastcon facility is up and running, it continues steadily with ongoing maintenance and a 90% production uptime. In other words, it runs 90% of the time, day and night, every day, and in a calendar year this amounts to 328 full production days. Taking this into account, a Plastcon facility with 2 modules is able to handle 16,750 tonnes of plastic waste every year.

Our modular design of the Plastcon system offers the customer the possibility to upscale the plant according to demand and ensure continuous production with no downtime. 

10. How many people does the Plastcon needs to operate?

The Plastcon system is designed for 24/7 operation, with 2-3 operators required on site at all times.