Plastic recycle and transformation into ecofuel through green chemistry

Closing the loop in plastic recycle

With its plants deployed in the Italian territory, Acea is an active player in the sector of waste selection, treatment and recycle. Over the years, our Group has found and developed solutions for waste management and valorisation, in line with our objectives of sustainability and the principles of circular economy. From the research and development of innovative procedures for plastic recovery, the GASIFORMINGTM patent has come into being.

Collecting and recycling plastic in Italy: how it works

The supply chain of plastic disposal and recycle in Italy involves the transportation of waste to selection centres, such as the Demap plant in Beinasco, property of Acea Group. Within these high-tech, high-automated mechanical plants, the material is sorted by polymer, dimension and colour. This operation, which is essential for treatment processes in plants recycling plastic, allows to make the waste homogeneous. A portion of waste coming out from selection centres is a whole of non-recyclable, heterogeneous plastics named plasmix, that generally would be sent to waste-to-energy plants or dumps.

What green chemistry means

In chemical industry, we talk about green or sustainable chemistry to refer to a new way to convert existing technologies into clean and eco-compatible processes.
One of the main goals of green chemistry is reducing the use of fossil fuels in industrial processes and enhancing the production of plastic materials and chemical products from biological and renewable sources.

Plasmix transformation into ecofuel

The green chemistry, innovative project carried out by Acea Ambiente was born from a collaboration with Politecnico di Milano and INSTM (Interuniversity National Consortium for Material Science and Technology).

“Since we met our partners for the first time, we realized that the technology they were developing was much more advanced than the existing ones” Michelangelo Petea, Acea Ambiente Head of Engineering and Development, explains. “Consequently, we launched a research program to assess its effectiveness and to understand its real potential in terms of application. The results confirmed our expectations. We decided to sign an exclusive license agreement for the use of this technology in the treatment of plastic waste through the national territory”. The fulfilment of Acea’s industrialization process is now under way.

GASIFORMINGTM technology stands at the roots of the process of ecofuel production. Patented by INSTM and Politecnico di Milano, and co-developed with Acea, it enables to convert plastics contained in plasmix into a synthesis gas, or syngas, useful to create chemical products.

From plasmix to syngas – The transformation process

A wide range of materials can be obtained from syngas. However, Acea Ambiente has opted for the production of ecofuel. Moreover, in comparison with similar processes, higher performance in plastic recycle is guaranteed due to this technology.

Definition of syngas

The word syngas derives from the combination of two English words: synthetic gas. It is a synthesis gas with an important energetic content resulting from a gasification process. This process, in fact, allows to transform a solid or liquid fuel into a gas mixture that can be adopted as fuel or in chemical synthesis. The syngas produced through gasification does not undergo any combustion. For this reason, it maintains the energetic properties of the original fuel, such as hydrocarbons contained in plastics.

Circular economy – A sustainable choice for the environment

Environmental performance is an aspect of the project that cannot be ignored. Recycling plastic in a green chemistry plant which transforms plasmix into green fuel without combustion and without producing emissions nor process waste: in this way, GASIFORMINGTM patent makes plastic life more and more circular.