Karelia University of Applied Sciences studies, tests and promotes the use of recycled raw materials
Karelia’s tasks in the PlastLIFE project are divided into four seamlessly interlinked themes:
1. Collection, pre-processing and refining of plastic waste into raw materials for products (granules, pellets)
Our goals are linked to the collection, pre-processing, granulation and pelletisation of plastic waste. We will test different production methods for the further processing of plastic waste on a very small scale and in a sparsely populated area. The technical production goal is further physical processing, where plastic waste materials are processed without chemical methods or water washing.
The recycling rate of agricultural plastics, in particular, is very low in North Karelia. In practice, Karelia intends to demonstrate that by enhancing the collection and pre-processing of plastic waste, reuse can be economically viable.
Karelia will develop technologies and operating models that improve the possibilities for recycling plastic waste in various sectors, such as agriculture and construction. In practice, the aim is to reduce costs and, together with agricultural producers, to produce information on how recycling in accordance with the standards could be more cost-effective. The operating models aim to ensure that recycled plastic raw materials are used in new products that have a long service life.
To achieve solutions that are as practical as possible, Karelia receives information directly from operators facing challenges in plastics recycling. We work in close cooperation with the Regional Union of Agricultural Producers in North Karelia.
We will study and test different raw material mixtures in which PE-LLD waste plastics are processed together with other raw materials and/or additives. Our work is divided into two research periods, taking place at the beginning and middle of the PlastLIFE project. This enables Karelia to react to changes in the waste plastics market during the project.
We work in close cooperation with Kuljetusliike Vaahterinen by searching for and developing a suitable raw material for new waste plastic/composite products. Testing will be carried out in Karelia’s premises in Joensuu, and practical studies will be carried out on farms. The conversion of waste plastics into granules by means of extrusion technology will be subcontracted, as the procurement of an extrusion machine is not economically feasible.
2. Analysis of recycled raw material made from waste plastic and production and testing of recycled products
We will test the quality of the recycled granules produced in the first phase and their suitability for recycled products. At the beginning of the project, Karelia’s precision technology experts will produce casting moulds for recycled plastic products, which are then used to manufacture products from plastics and various mixtures by injection moulding. The quality and suitability of the products will be tested by laboratory tests and practical stress tests. If necessary, Karelia will repeat the research work approximately four years after the start of the project.
3. Environmental impacts of waste plastics use models (microplastic emissions, carbon balance calculations, LCA
We will study the effects of long-term storage on the quality of agricultural waste plastics and the microplastic emissions to soil and run-off water caused by the storage of plastics. At the same time, we will study the effects of long-term storage on the quality of plastics and assess the technical possibilities of further processing. We aim to organise the testing conditions in a real-life environment in cooperation with agricultural producers, but we also have access to Karelia’s climate chambers that are operated in a laboratory setting.
4. Teaching, information sharing and implementation of the results of other sub-projects
We will organise seminars in 2024–2027. In the final year of the PlastLIFE project in 2029, we will organise a final seminar, possibly combined with a media event. All of the results of Karelia’s tasks will be utilised in Karelia’s basic education throughout the project.