PTFE, FEP, PFA Recycling

1. Introduction

The need of PTFE has increased over the years, which are used in industries such as automotive, medical, food packaging, household and personal care. They are generally opaque and have good heat resistant characteristics. PTFE can be recycled into many other products and used for rods, tubing and sheets. It can be sterilized by using autoclave, gas, dry heat and chemical disinfectant. The recycled PTFE is known technically as “Reprocessed” or “Repro” PTFE.

2. Recycling Process of PTFE

Recycling of PTFE became common in industries as there is no chemical reaction required. The PTFE scrap is grind into fine powder and then blend with pure PTFE that is used in compressions molding. To remove the inorganic compounds the scrap is first heated before grinding. Only the extruded forms can be recycled and separated from unwanted impurities and heated. Next it is put into a long strand, which is then cut down into small pallets and sent to industries that use as recycled material for their products.

Polytetrafluoroethylene’s (PTFE) ability to withstand extreme temperatures and harsh chemical environments makes it appealing for a number of applications but also makes it difficult to deal with in end-of-life, but not any more, according to 3M.

3M subsidiary Dyneon GmbH is currently constructing a PTFE recycling plant at an integrated production site located in southern Germany, with an annual capacity to recycle 500 metric tons of PTFE waste, converting it back to full-value raw materials.

Used in the chemical, automotive, semiconductor, and aerospace markets in a variety of applications, such as pumps, tapes, and automotive parts, PTFE presents a particular problem with regards to process waste.

An estimated 20,000 tonnes of waste are created annually during the processing of PTFE globally, according to 3M, and this waste material is currently either thermally degraded or land filled in special sites at a cost to the processor.

In 3M’s new process, PTFE waste materials will be heated in a reactor, split into their raw gaseous components, cleaned, and fed back into the production of new PTFE. At full capacity, 3M estimates that the process will save 10,000 tonnes of waste hydrochloric-acid, 7500 megawatt hours of energy, and subsequently 7500 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from being released annually into the atmosphere.

Global PTFE demand is forecast to be in excess of 240,000 tons, according to a Companies & Market report. PTFE has a 60% market share of the global fluoropolymer market-

3. Uses of Recycled PTFE

Most of the PTFE products are ground into powder which is used in inks, paints and cosmetics. Fiber filling for ski coats, fleece coat, polyester suits and more for cold areas is very prominent in developed countries. PTFE recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions and save the environment. It’s even used for making plastic lumber, toys, park benches, car parts, drainage pipes and more. The recycled materials are graded as per plastic inputs by companies like ECO USA.

Process development of rubber compounds with PTFE micro powder in order to improve tribological properties (hot mold release agent ):

Based on PTFE chemistry, PTFE water-based release agent is designed to be ideal for molding of elastomers, including natural and synthetic rubber, EPDM, NBR, silicone, Viton and polychloroprene. The material is also suitable for most plastics and resins. The release agent activates at 212[degrees]F and is designed for application to molds which have been preheated to between 212[degrees]F and 550[degrees]F. There is no discernable transfer or migration from the mold coating to the molded part, according to the literature. A low coefficient of friction is said to provide outstanding lubricity. The product is non-flammable and is available in both aerosol and bulk liquid forms*).

4. Economic Conditions of PTFE Recycling

PTFE recycling appears to be economic, which saves about 7.4 cubic yards of landfill space. Its saves 12,000 BTU’s of heat energy by recycling one pound of plastic bottles. Oil consumption can also be reduced by recycling all the scrap plastics. The price of PTFE resins had reached some stability level globally.

Eco USA is a leading PTFE recycler who effectively removes PTFE scrap from your production line. The company is specialized in the development and production of high quality PTFE products. The company identifies three grades of PTFE scrap for specific uses.

Need of PTFE scraps has increased over the years, which are used in industries such as automotive, medical, food packaging, household and personal care. They are generally opaque and have good heat resistant characteristics. PTFE can be recycled into many other products and used for rods, tubing and sheets. It can be sterilized by using autoclave, gas, dry heat and chemical disinfectant. The recycled PTFE is known technically as “Reprocessed” or “Repro” PTFE.

5. Pricing of recycled PTFE

In recent times, the landscape of the PTFE industry has been significantly altered by the ascent of PTFE recycling. The combining of recycled PTFE (known technically as “Reprocessed” or “Repro” PTFE) with pure PTFE has become so widespread and unchecked that more often than not the material that customers are buying does not even remotely adhere to the quality standards required – due the abnormally high levels of repro being mixed in an attempt to keep costs low for the processor.

More alarming – processors and dealers alike are choosing not to offer the transparency to most clients on the proportion of recycled material being used (or that it is being used at all). This misleads the client into assuming he is receiving a material which is superior in performance – but which will most likely fail in any long run application. Additionally – processors who supply pure PTFE are forced to compete on price with a material that is not truly a substitute.

We would like to look at the issue of Reprocessed PTFE – both from the technical standpoint as well as a commercial standpoint. We believe the issue is critical to the understanding of the PTFE industry and as a technical tool for those looking to incorporate PTFE in their applications.

By 2010, the price for PTFE resins globally had reached some level of stability. Those in the industry will know that this was short-lived as one year on, we continue to work in oblivion to what price fluctuations may occur in the next week or month. However, it would be fair to say that even historically – the prices availed during the first half of 2010 may be the lowest that PTFE prices have ever sunk. Nonetheless, the competitiveness of pure PTFE processors was still not great.

In the few years leading up to 2010 (just before the current price escalation began) we began observing an obvious disconnect in India between the price of PTFE resins and the price of semi-finished articles (rods and sheets) being imported from China by traders.

The price for virgin PTFE resin was about 8-9 US$ per Kg (3.6-4.1 US$ per pound), whereas the price for Chinese semi finished articles was 10-11 US$ per Kg (4.5-5 US$ per pound).

Given that the processing cost for PTFE is about 4-5 US$ per Kg (1.8-2.3 US$ per pound) – it seemed there was no way that manufacturers in India could compete with traders on price. Obviously, clients were equally surprised, as they should have been; you would expect manufacturers to be far more competitive than dealers, but this was not the case.

It seemed impossible that the price could be so low, considering it would need to include the price of resin in China plus the cost of shipping, plus the customs duties on Indian imports, plus the trader’s overheads and finally the trader’s margin.

To study this pricing abnormality, a large enquiry to Chinese resin suppliers to gauge the local price in China and were offered a rate of 5.5 US$ per Kg (ex-works). If we used this as our base price (as we assume a large Chinese processor would avail such a price) and assumed the same costs of processing (not unlikely as India and China have similar wage structures and power costs), the cost structure for semi-finished PTFE could be built up as follows in the graph:

Article Sources:

Miller-Stephenson Chemical) from Rubber World,vol.1,1999

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