Like plastics manufacturing and processing, the recycling of plastic products requires specialization to be efficient. Accordingly, the Dutch company DALY Plastics has dedicated itself entirely to the recycling of agricultural films and packaging films from transport logistics. Currently, the processing volume rates 35,000 tons per year. DALY Plastics when processing film-flakes relies on the machine technology of the Upper Austrian company “MAS-Maschinen- und Anlagenbau Schulz GmbH”. Three extrusion lines are currently in operation, a fourth is presently beeing commissioned.

The Daalder family in Zutphen in the Dutch province of Gelderland is already in the second generation in the collection of recyclables. It all started with Simon Daalder B.V., who professionally collected waste paper and cardboard boxes and sold them to paper mills. At the age of sixteen, Peter Daalder, the practical oriented son of the founders of the company, recognized the potential of plastic collection in 1985 as an opportunity for founding his own company. That same year, he urged his parents to drop out of school and set up his own business. With the promise of completing his degree at evening school, he was hired in his parents’ company. Since some of his parents’ customers had in addition to cardboard to dispose films, and the youngster was able to offer the related collection service, his business under the name „Daly Plastics“ was well received.

For the next 25 years, it remained in collecting plastic films, compacting them to bales and selling them. In this context, selling meant generally speaking exporting, especially to China. The export business developed very well, because processing to re-granulates was a welcome new industry there. Accordingly, during these 25 years the PRC has become the largest recycling center in the world. To take those dimensions into account: In 2016, the PRC imported around 7.3 million tons of plastic waste worth US $ 3.7 billion, which corresponds with 87% of all plastic waste from the EU. (Source: NTV online from 09.01.2018)

From the plastic collector to the recycler

Asked about the motivation to change the company strategy after 25 successful years as a plastic-waste collection company and exporter, company founder Peter Daalder looks back: “For a long time, like most of our competitors, we simply followed the market. Unrivalled low labor costs in China made recycling in Europe uneconomic. On the other hand, our location near Europe’s most important seaports provided favorable conditions for cost-saving transport to Asia. Thus, a large part of the post-consumer plastic collected by us was exported. Doubts about this business model then came up in 2011 when one of our customers decided not to export everything anymore, but to start with an own processing of old agricultural films and in this connection carried out processing trials at MAS-Austria. This made us aware of MAS. As a result, one day the opportunity arose to spend an evening with MAS founder Helmuth Schulz. We philosophized about the future of the recycling industry. He warned against an unwavering belief in the wage cost advantage in combination with low environmental requirements. If the next 5-year plan would define changes, the boom would be over. The consequence for Europe must be a turnaround to higher plastic recycling rates. Looking back, I am glad that I was impressed by his arguments. From that day on, I prepared myself mentally for self-processing and started it in 2013. The prophecy of Helmuth Schulz, who died in September 2017, came true on January 1, 2018, when China closed its borders for used plastics with more than 0, 5% impurities closed. This has torn deep holes in the balance sheets of plastic exporters with no in-house processing. Since we were already processing a large part of our collected plastic volume ourselves at that time, we were only marginally affected.”

Errors drive you smart

However, before the concept was up and production could begin, a number of opportunities had to be taken and technical points set. A major argument for contacting MAS was the waterless DRD (Double Rotary Disc) dry cleaning system. Because Daly Plastics intended to get along without a wet-washing process and the related expensive sewage sludge disposal when processing agricultural films. Since mainly granular soil particles and moisture had to be removed, attempts were made with the waterless DRD (Double Rotary Disc) dry cleaning system of MAS, which proceeded satisfactorily. In the meantime, Daly Plastics relies entirely on MAS machine technology when processing pre-sorted and flake-finished films. The cleaned film-flakes can be processed on the MAS cascade extrusion line, consisting of the conical co-rotating twin-screw extruder MAS 93 (Fig. 1), a TA-90 single-screw extruder and a continuous disc filter between the two extruders to high-quality granules.

But a short time after the plant went into operation a Daly Plastics customer for plastic waste changed his strategy. Instead of continuing with processing agricultural films on his MAS recycling system, starting in 2013 food packaging films should be processed, as this promised higher sales revenues. However, it turned out that the DRD-dry cleaning process can only separate a small proportion of food fats adhering to the films. This limited the throughput at the extruder, whose degassing system managed to “degrease” the plastic melt only up to a throughput of 350 kg/h – one third of the maximum output. The conclusion was that it would not work without changing the concept.

Specialization as a success factor

Now – it was the year 2013 – struck the hour of Peter Daalder. He bought the two DRD and after a call to MAS boss Schulz, who acted as a middleman, the cascade extruder and accessories. Thus, the technical conditions for the founding Daly Plastics sister company Caroda Polymer Recovery (named after Peter Daalder’s daughter Caroline) were given. The commercial basis was the decision to specialize in the future on the processing of agricultural and industrial films (= pallet over-packaging, with a high proportion of LLDPE shrink films) (Figures 2 and 3).

The Caroda polymer plant after some optimizations and with the support of MAS hit the ground running very well. Above all, the filter technology had to be optimized: Finally between the extruders of the cascade a continuously working disc filter (type: MAS CDF 500-D) separates particles down to 250 μm and a second filter after the second extruder all impurities down to 90 μm. In this constellation, the system, supplied by two DRDs, reaches an output of up to 1300 kg/h (Figs. 4, 5 and 6 and Factbox MAS recycling technology).

When an English recycling company ceased operations due to economic problems, Daalder acquired a second MAS-93 cascade line and purchased two more DRD dryers. A short time later, he invested in the third MAS-line, achieving a total annual production capacity of 33,500 t of polyethylene granules with an MFI of 0.4 to 1.4 g/10 min (190°C and 2.16 kg) for blow molding applications in the colors gray, black and light brown, referred to as “tea color”. The recycled materials have a high tensile strength and are suitable for the production of tear-resistant garbage bags and drawstring bags.

Expectations fully met!

Looking back on three years of practical experience, MAS technology has fully met the expectations set in it. Peter Daalder again: “Not only the output and the stability of the production system has met our expectations, but also the long-term performance, after all, our systems are operated around the clock in a 4-shift system. Our first line has now completed more than 30,000 hours without major problems. That motivated us to invest in the fourth plant, which has gone into full operation by the end of 2018. Overall we see an approval of our approach to rely on the local production of recycled granules. We want to continue on our path by expanding our offer to recycling natural-based plastics as well as PP, PS or PS impact-resistant. By 2020, we want to expand production capacity to 100,000 tons per year. Because in Europe the recycling-future has just begun.”

MAS was founded in 2006 by Ing. Helmut Schulz, who has more than 40 years of experience in plastics engineering and holds numerous area-specific patents.

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