Plastics and Rubber Recycling Trials

Increasingly, manufacturers are being encouraged to adopt environmentally aware practices and to use materials produced from recyclate. Smithers Rapra offers support for a variety of polymers, but predominantely assess polyolefins for conversion and recycling purposes. We also work with companies to develop processes for the devulcanisation and/or reuse of tyre rubber, which is now undergoing commercialisation. 

We provide specialist analytical and consultative support for two different types of recycled material:

Food Contact Products  Waste Rubber Recycling

Food Contact Products from Recycled Materials

For companies wanting to use recyclate for Food Contact products, Smithers Rapra provides full service support with: 

  • Regulatory Guidance
  • Bespoke Test Programme Development
  • Chemical Analysis
  • Small-scale Production

Regulatory Guidance
Across the globe there are a range of regulations in place to ensure that Food Contact materials are safe for intended use. However, using recycled plastics for Food Contact applications has additional risks which need to be considered:

  • Contaminants from non-food approved plastic in input stream
  • Contaminants from previous use (including possible misuse)
  • Chemicals used in the recycling process itself
  • Degradation products caused by multiple processing

Smithers Rapra can advise on the various requirements of corresponding regulations, and help you navigate the additional requirements for recycled plastics.

Bespoke Test Programme Development
Legislative demands and material choices both determine the types of testing needed on recycled plastics. Our experts can work with you to develop a custom test programme based on your individual needs, and advise on the optimum process.

Chemical Analysis
Our comprehensive laboratory facilities are well-equipped for the chemical analysis of recyclate materials intended for Food Contact use. We can:

  • Undertake migration studies on your material to test whether it passes migration test requirements, assessing both the overall migration limit (OML) and any specific migration limits (SMLs)
  • Assess the Food Contact compliance of materials produced from recyclate, to ensure any contaminants have been successfully removed during the recycling process

Small-scale Production
Our experienced technologists can assist with specialist prototyping, product trials and low-volume manufacturing. Manufacturing techniques for polymers include compounding, extrusion based processes and moulding – all of which are regularly audited to maintain the highest production standards possible.

Waste Rubber: Recycling and Re-use

Economic and environmental concerns have increased the pressure on companies and organisations to recycle rubber products, and finding a cost effective and commercially viable route is of paramount importance for companies to be successful.

In order to be useful, waste rubber requires:

  • Low levels of contaminants (such as steel and fabric).
  • Low levels of other rubbers (to ensure good compatibility with matrix).
  • Rubber crumb needs to be well controlled and have a consistent particle size distribution.

Over the past few years, new devulcanisation technologies have been developed to support product development from reprocessed waste rubber and incorporate these factors. These techniques include:

  • Ultrasonic
  • Thermal
  • Thermal – using a reaction vessel (e.g. using an autoclave)
  • Thermo-mechanical – high shear process (e.g. using an extruder)
  • Both of these can be undertaken with or without chemical agents
  • Microwaves
  • Biological  agents

Research Projects
Smithers Rapra has been involved in several UK and European multi-partner research projects developing recycling processes for polymers and rubbers – giving us a valuable insight into cutting edge developments in polymer recycling. 

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For Plastics and Rubber Recycling Trials guidance please get in touch with our featured expert.