Sustainable recycling strategies for products and waste streams containing biobased plastics


Recycling of polylactide (PLA) by selective dissolution from waste streams

PLA Rezyklt aus Abfallgemischen

Polylactide (PLA) is currently the most important biobased plastic in the packaging market due to its high production volume, competitive price, and excellent mechanical properties. As such, there is growing focus on the end-of-life management of this material. Environmental groups complain that PLA is neither collected in large quantities nor recycled. They highlight §1 Paragraph 1 of the Packaging Act, according to which unavoidable packaging waste should preferably be reused and/or recycled.

As many packaging plastics use PLA as a laminate material or as part of a blend, the recovery of high-quality and pure PLA fractions using conventional recycling methods is difficult.

Solvent-based separation produces high-quality PLA recyclate

Solvent-based recycling is a more promising approach. This has been shown to be successful for conventional thermoplastics (PET, PS, ABS, PA, PVC, etc.) and produces highly pure polymer recyclates from contaminated and heterogeneous waste streams. This method involves treating the waste with a specific solvent that is able to selectively extract PLA from waste mixtures, laminated packaging, and PLA blends.

Optimizing the recycling process increases quality and profitability

The objective of this research project is to recover pure and high-quality PLA recylates from post-consumer waste. The project work involves optimizing the solvent-based process for selected PLA waste streams and comparing the resulting recyclate quality and economic viability of the process with mechanical recycling (recompounding).

The envisaged solution for the end-of-life management of PLA will simplify the commercial usage of PLA and promote environmentally and economically more sustainable production of plastic packaging. The project is being undertaken in close collaboration with the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research, Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institute WKI.

There is also intense ongoing collaboration with the FNR (Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e.V.) - research alliance "Sustainable recycling strategies for products and waste containing biobased plastics" - and four further projects are being undertaken.

*CreaSolv® is a registered trade name of CreaCycle GmbH, Grevenbroich


Project term: 2014 to 2016
Project management
/project funding:
Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe FNR e.V.
Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL)
Publications: Project results summary "PLA in the waste stream"