There are wastes that are almost impossible to recycle because they consist of many different elements. This situation along with shoes or toys Clothes, go to landfill, it creates a big environmental problem. Now the first facility to recover these objects has been commissioned in Elda (Alicante).
Specifically, three million tons of clothing, shoes and toys are sent to landfills in Spain, aiming to finish a pilot plant to recycle these hitherto impossible materials. located in Elda (Alicante) and “that demonstrates that the circular economy is possible and feasible.It is the result of the Circular Industry project coordinated by the Center for Shoe Technologies (Inescop) and run together with the Institute of Toy Technologies (AIJU) and Textile Technology Institute (Aitex), which is part of the Network of Technological Institutes. Community of Valencia (Redit).
“It’s estimated that only 5% of shoe, textile and toy waste is recycled each year in the Valencian Community,” Inescop principal investigator on the project, Borja Mateu, told Efe.
The expert said that the difficulty in recycling, “both clothes and shoes or toys are multi-component, that is, they are made of different materials It has been impossible until now to deal with them separately.”
“It’s something that can be done manually with a cutter if you spend an hour removing a shoe, separating the insole, lining, and leather,” he admits, but points to “for the process to be economically viable.” , the challenge of automating through technology”.
Now Circular Industry has made this type of recycling possible, as Mateu thinks: “No one had started working yet due to lack of need or lack of in-depth knowledge about the industry”.
Rippers, mills and decimeter tables
The Circular Industries pilot plant has incorporated machines used in recycling different industries such as mining, glass recycling, plastics, and adapted to collect other types of materials or sizes.
In this way, for example, the journey of a shoe to be recycled in the Inescop factory begins with a shredding machine whose function is a “giant predator”.Drop all objects introduced in stacks of similar size so that different pieces are released in the process”.
Next step metal separatorConsisting of a belt “like in supermarkets, but on a large scale”, metallic materials are attracted by magnets that separate them from the rest of the waste.
Without the metal parts, the waste goes to a mill, which, according to Mateu, is “like a blender with many blades,” which grinds objects to a very small size and enables separation of materials reduced to residual particles.
The final step in the process is to place all the particles on a decimetric table, a surface to which air and vibration are applied to measure and precisely separate the densities of these elements.
From waste to raw material
Reviewing some of the applications that shoe, clothing, and toy waste can have, Mateu emphasizes, “What is waste for some is a material for others.”
In some areas, he points out, It is common to reintroduce the material into the industry, as is the case with shoe plastics used to make new soles.but the same material can be used to manufacture playground floors, car parts and even jogging tracks.
Likewise, hePlastic of toys can bring new games to lifeThey “meet all chemical standards because they are made from the same material and come from the same objects”. This plastic can also be used as a filament to feed 3D printers.
As for its possible applications in other fields, it points to the automobile industry. it can recycle 70% of every car that normally corresponds to metal.but not the 20% that corresponds to multi-component materials such as leather, foam, upholstery, bumper…”
“It’s time to raise awareness or educate companies that the traditional way of doing business on waste is coming to an end,” says Mateu, but the real problem is not in companies reducing waste, but textiles, shoes or toys “who want to recycle cannot”.
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