To move from a linear economy to a circular economy for plastics, all plastics must be part of the cycle. However, in terms of recyclability, there is a big difference different types of plastic. In this article you can read about recycling polystyrene (PS) and alonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and what makes these two different plastics.

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What is polystyrene (PS)?
Polystyrene, or PS for short, is one of the standard plastics and is used - as a thermoplastic or foam material (EPS) - in many areas of everyday life. Above all, disposable products made of polystyrene have become well known in the scientific field as well as in many economic and household fields.
In its solid state, polystyrene is stal clear, hard, impact-sensitive, and electrically insulating. However, it can be colored and printed without any problems. Its physiological innocuousness has also made plastic attractive to the food sector as visible packaging. Other common uses include disposable drinking cups, spout lids for coffee cups or disposable cutlery while yogurt cups or packaging for honey or coffee ice cream are also produced from ​polystyrene. Polystyrene is also commonly used in industrial facilities, for example for component enclosures, coils or switch knobs.
Like expanded polystyrene or ESP, also known as Styrofoam, polystyrene is used to manufacture packaging or takeout trays and containers for fish, meat, fruit and vegetables. Polystyrene is very cost-effective compared to other plastics. It is also highly permeable to gases and vapors, odorless and tasteless, making it ideal for food preservation.

What is Alonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)?
Alonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) is the most important engineering thermoplastic by mass. It is a polymer consisting of three monomers - alonitrile, butadiene and styrene, whose shape can be changed as often as desired at certain temperatures, is also resistant to moisture and staining and is largely resistant grease, electrostatic charge and temperature fluctuations. . ABS is hard, impact and scratch resistant and can also be easily bonded, welded and machined. Plastics are also well suited for coating polymers or metals. The main uses of ABS plastic are 40% for household appliances and 26% for electrical and electronic (E&E) applications. ABS has also been used in the toy industry for decades: For example, famous building blocks are molded from alonitrile-butadiene-styrene. In the automotive industry, ABS is used for body parts, trim, accessories, headlights as well as various interior parts. Last but not least, 3D printing technology has made ABS plastic known worldwide, as the substance is one of the most widely used materials in the 3D printing process.
Recycling potential for PS and ABS
Recycle PS
Since polystyrene's properties change only slightly even after repeated treatment, it can be recycled very well.
Polystyrene used for packaging in the retail sector is collected by dual systems throughout Germany. In sorting plants, hard PS can be easily separated by near-infrared technology. Used EPS packaging containers are also well suited for mechanical recycling. They are collected separately and shipped to recycling sites as a separate section.
Pure polystyrene is shredded and mechanically processed into high-quality recycled sheet, which is then used to manufacture various everyday items such as folding boxes, furniture or clothes hangers. In addition, used plastic packaging can be reprocessed into new products using the injection molding process.

Recycle ABS
ABS is essentially mechanically recyclable. The advantage of this plastic is that, as is the case with PS, being a recycled material, it retains the same properties as before the recycling process. Here, however, recyclers often face a major challenge. In the case of household appliances or electrical scrap, after the metal parts are separated in the sorting plants, what is left is a plastic mixture that not only includes a variety of plastics but is also contaminated by dust, wood, flakes. glass, residual metal and other impurities. The task then is to produce clean and recyclable plastic segments from this complex mixture. Color also plays an important role in the recycling process. For example, electronic scraps have a particularly high percentage of black plastic, so they are not detected by the near-infrared technology used in sorting plants.
As a result, a large percentage of valuable ABS becomes waste because of its black color. A solution offered by the so-called electrostatic separation technology, which can also separate completely black material mixtures and even achieve purity of up to 99% for ABS segments. However, this is only possible if the e-waste is pre-concentrated, for example by classifying plastics containing flame retardants. Pre-concentrating plastics from this complex mixture of materials requires a combination of dry and wet processing techniques.
In theory, both PS and ABS are easily recyclable and can go back to the plastic cycle. Although PS has been successfully recycled to a large extent and used in the manufacture of new products, too much valuable ABS still ends up in the trash. The reason is that ABS is mainly used for household and electrical appliances, which are complex mixtures of materials, and recycling companies often lack the right sorting technology to sort these complex mixtures. and produce high-quality recycled panels, which can therefore be used to create new products.
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2Lians Recycling Pte., Ltd
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