Compressed air powers plastics circular economy
Advanced Circular Polymers has recently established a $20 million plastics recycling plant in Somerton, Victoria, to help solve a significant part of the state’s waste disposal problems while realising a business opportunity.
Using the latest compressed air powered robotics and laser recognition machinery, a wide variety of plastic waste from domestic, commercial and industrial sources is sorted, separated into polymer type and thoroughly decontaminated.
Precision compressed air jets sort the different types of plastic and artificial intelligence is used to further refine the process. The separated plastics are then chopped into high-quality flakes that are used to manufacture a wide range of new plastic products.
AC Polymer’s management, headed by Harry Wang, sought an efficient compressed air power source to run this precision machinery while minimising energy usage and cost. The primary electrical power is by renewable energy from Goldwind Australia’s wind farm near Ballarat.
Kevin Smith, Maintenance Manager at AC Polymers, stated, “The decision to install two 110 kW, 2-stage, rotary screw compressors from Southern Cross Compressors Australia was based on our need for reliable, high-efficiency, high-volume quality air supplied for variable demands throughout the plant. Their highly qualified, mobile technician team and regular maintenance program plus their lifetime warranty on the compressor airends were also deciding factors.”
With an immediate demand for effective waste disposal and recycling due to China’s recent decision not to accept more of Australia’s waste products, AC Polymers anticipates a rapid growth in both processing plastic waste and the market for the end plastic flake products. Wang stated that most of these products will be sold in Australia and that more than half of the current output will be used in Victorian manufacturing.
With new regulations, forcing manufacturers to use a percentage of recycled materials and costing more to use virgin materials, there is already a great demand for recycled, re-usable raw plastic inputs and it is expected that need will continue to grow in the coming years.
The business is based strongly on the illustrated ‘Circular Economy’, which is self-sufficient through recycling otherwise waste products into a useful and required commodity. Many of the products manufactured from the flakes are the same as those the waste recovery is made from, including beverage bottles and other plastic containers for foodstuffs, cleaning products, etc. The flakes can also be used to produce economical wood substitute products such as fencing and outdoor furniture.
“As long as these products are in the recycling system they can be recycled again and again… the circle is endless,” Wang concluded.
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