Talking the plank – Jakes Wallage with the ultimate product, the Polyplank™ profiles which are used in a variety of end products, including desks, pallets, furniture and others

CTP Flex, Polyplank develop solution for laminate scrap

BENEFICIATION is a term usually applied to the mining sector, a process that involves improving the economic value of ores, but there’s no reason for convertors to not look at a similar scenario for production scrap. These polymer materials are, after all, commodities and in some cases production scrap – including start-up scrap, edge trim and off-spec print run – forms a higher than desired ratio of material cost.

CTP Flexibles in Cape Town has come up with a solution for the quantities of laminate film scrap it produces, much of which previously went to landfill – which incidentally also incurred additional costs for both transport and landfill dump fees.

CTP Flexibles, a film extrusion/printing/bag making business in the Caxton media and print group, now supplies the laminate scrap to recycler Polyplank, including polyethylene, BOPP (biaxially orientated polypropylene) and metallised PET (polyester).

Polyplank manufactures its proprietary Polyplank range of planks from a combination of polyolefins, polyester and polyamide. Polyplank MD Jakes Wallage, who established the company in 2006, has developed the ratio formula for the extruded profiles that are manufactured in a process developed by Polyplank, operating out of Epping Industria, Cape Town.

In a case of adding value to a material previously seen as high-cost scrap and diverting it from landfill, the partners CTP Flexibles and Polyplank have come up with a solution that is assisting the drive to improve the environmental image of plastic film materials. Even on landfills, these films can still pose an environmental hazard by being blown into surrounding areas, ending up littering the environment and entering rivers and hence the ocean. Eliminating this source of plastic litter is just one step in the industry’s drive to clean up its image.

“Polyplank has made it its business to design a solution to this complex multi-lam waste. We did this with our own funding and initiative,” said Wallage, who has been working for some time with CTP.

CTP Flex general manager Alan Booth said “we realized how important it is for us to reduce the amount of scrap going to landfill and this needs to be done as much as possible.

“One of the key objectives is to limit our factory scrap rate wherever possible. Getting this project underway has been a positive venture for us and our partners,” added Booth.


Gained popularity

The Polyplank profiles have recently gained popularity in the manufacture of school desks, where they offer some advantages over the wood used traditionally. Besides the fact that timber has become increasingly expensive, the Polyplank alternative provides a solution for a material that was previously seen as an environmental contaminant. One of the obvious advantages is that the Polyplank desk is somewhat heavier than the pine solution and hence sturdier.

The Polyplank profiles are supplied as ready-to-assemble ‘flatpack’ kits (similar to the concept pioneered by IKEA of Sweden over 70 years ago, with wood) and assembled on site.


Post-consumer next?

Using factory scrap for the production of the profiles is obviously far easier than working with post-consumer material, which would involve the additional steps of collecting, sorting and cleaning, but the partners see the initiative as a step towards the goal of fully resolving the problem posed by laminates in the environment. These films have proved difficult to recycle and if anything could possibly be one of the plastic materials least likely to degrade and therefore remain in the environment for years after disposal.

Developing the technology to reprocess these films (thanks to Polyplank) and gain market traction for resultant products is thus a step towards the somewhat fanciful but not unattainable ‘zero plastics to landfill’ goal.