We often talk about recycling, especially for plastic. We know that in Europe, less than 1/3 of plastics waste is recycled. The rest is either incinerated or landfilled. Uptake of recycled plastics for new products is also problematic, as they compete with virgin plastics which are often cheaper. In TRANSFORM-CE, a project supported by the Interreg North West Europe programme, design researchers from TU Delft work together with 8 other partners from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the UK to investigate how to increase the recycling rate of single use plastic (through injection-extrusion moulding and 3D printing), as well as to enhance uptake of recycled plastics by business and consumers.

TRANSFORM-CE aims to recycle all types of single use plastic (SUP) to provide businesses with an alternative to virgin plastic feedstock. Low valued plastics (e.g. foils) will be transformed into moulded products using intrusion-extrusion moulding (IEM) and higher valued plastics into Additively Manufactured (AM) products. In addition, the project aims to invigorate market uptake of recycled plastic into new products and to support business to adopt Circular Economy models. For the project, three facilities will provide scalability of technologies: a Green plastic factory for IEM in Almere, NL; and two AM facilities, in Manchester (UK) and Mons (Belgium). Recycled plastic from these plants will be used to stimulate new secondary material market while demonstrating that municipal waste plastic can be re-purposed/revalued with an estimated diversion of 308.2 tonnes of plastic over 3 years.

The role of Design Organisation and Strategy (DOS) team is twofold. One the one hand, households perspective on sorting plastic waste will be investigated to improve SUP collection. On the other hand, user perceptions of and needs for recycled AM printed and IEM products will be identified to align recycled waste products to consumer uptake. The role of the Sustainable Design Engineering department will be to identify and develop meaningful 3D printed applications for the recycled materials and to evaluate and optimize their printability.