Technological watch

Cumberland Granulators Helps Plastics Processors Quantify Their Reductions in Global Warming Potential

Meeting sustainability goals by mitigating potential for global warming is becoming more important to plastics processors and recyclers. Achieving those objectives requires quantifying the benefits of the companies’ efforts. A recent project by the Cumberland Granulators division of ACS Group has helped customers quantify the reduction of global warming potential (GWP) as a result of operations at their plants, supporting efforts to meet or exceed sustainability goals.

Cumberland worked directly with Teel Plastics, a leading extruder and injection molder, and KW Plastics, the world’s largest plastics recycler, to identify specific net benefits that grinding and reusing plastic scrap has had on their operations. The improvements are significant and include reductions in GWP.

Processors and recyclers are under pressure to show stakeholders and customers how they are working to be environmentally responsible. “Sustainability is much more than a buzzword,” said Andre Adams, Senior Product Manager at Cumberland. “Companies in the plastics industry realize that their future success depends largely on being environmentally responsible and contributing to a circular economy.”

By using regrind and reusing materials, Teel Plastics was able to mitigate CO2 equivalent potential by up to 11,000 tons per year. Image courtesy Cumberland Granulators.Cumberland granulators are used widely throughout the plastics industry to regrind plastic scrap. These granulators work for all sizes and shapes of plastic parts and are an integral part of many closed-loop plastics operations. “Our machinery is used every day to help processors reclaim and reuse their scrap plastic,” said Adams. “But we wanted to take this a step further. We asked ourselves, ‘How can we quantify the direct effect on how grinding and recycling scrap plastics helps the environment as opposed to using additional virgin resin or filling a local landfill with scrap?’”

After research, it was determined that it would be possible to directly quantify net greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions — specifically, how many tons of CO2 equivalent are avoided by reclaiming material back into the plastics manufacturing and recycling processes. Cumberland set out to work with Teel Plastics and KW Plastics to identify this.

“We have numerous injection molding and extrusion lines here,” said Christian Herrild, Director of Growth Strategies and In-House Counsel at Teel Plastics. “We had recently converted our operation to use Cumberland FX Series beside-the-press granulators as opposed to an exclusive single central granulating room. This produced some great results for us. We reduced our lost regrind material, saved on labor, and realized up to $300,000 in material savings per year. When Cumberland asked us to work with them to take this a step further and try to identify GHG emissions savings, we were happy to help.”

Data models provided by Cumberland showed that recycler KW Plastics was able to reduce global warming potential by the equivalent of emissions from 15,000 passenger vehicles per year. Image courtesy Cumberland Granulators.Cumberland also approached KW Plastics, the world’s largest plastics recycler. It began working with Cumberland over 30 years ago and uses Cumberland 62B heavy duty granulators at its plant to help recycle post-consumer HDPE and PP materials. “It’s a harsh environment for machinery and a challenging process. Post-consumer plastics have a lot of dirt and contaminants in the material,” said Scott Saunders, General Manager of KW Plastics. “With Cumberland’s help, we pioneered wet granulation, which enhanced the process to help us successfully recycle high volumes of materials.”

Adams constructed a model of the manufacturing and recycling processes for Teel Plastics and KW Plastics.

Key data showed that, on average, Teel Plastics mitigated CO2 equivalent potential by up to 11,000 tons per year for that particular production line by using regrind and reusing materials. This is the equivalent of eliminating emissions from more than 2,195 passenger vehicles per year.

KW Plastics mitigated CO2 equivalent potential by up to 75,000 tons per year, on average, for one line by recycling materials (vs. manufacturing new virgin materials). This is the equivalent of eliminating the emissions from 15,000 passenger vehicles per year.

“We encourage plastics industry processors and recyclers to take a look at this data, and to contact us if they would like some help in analyzing their current operations,” said Adams. “Through the use of Cumberland size-reduction equipment, we can help plastics manufacturers and recyclers identify ways to increase internal recycling, help companies mitigate their global warming impact, and meet their sustainability goals, all while helping them save money and improve their operations,” said Adams.

Publication date: 08/06/2020

Plastics Today

This project has been co-funded with the support of the LIFE financial instrument of the European Union [LIFE17 ENV/ES/000438] Life programme

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Last update: 2020-07-14