Old windscreens meet the recycling bin

November 13, 2013
Old windscreens meet the recycling bin
Credit: Shutterstock

While the metal used for vehicles can be recycled fairly easily, a solution for recovering the glass used for windows has not been so readily at hand.

The EU has been looking at novel ways of recycling not only the , but the invisible resin-like layer that strengthens it, and which is made from polyvinyl butyral (PVB).

Taking up the challenge is the EU WS-REC ('Design and Construction of a Windscreen Recycling Line'), which has found a way to separate the PVB from the glass for recovery and reuse.

The initiative is being spearheaded by L'Urederra Technological Centre in Spain, which is working with five partners from Germany, the Netherlands and Spain. Using this process, the project team will be able to treat and recycle 300 000 windscreens per year.

Claudio Fernandez, general manager of Technological Centre L'Urederra, is keen on exploiting this technology.

"We've established a wide number of contacts with companies such as those who manage glass, repair windscreens and produce high amounts of this type of waste," he says. "They too are aware of the existing environmental challenge concerning laminated glass recycling and are eager to contribute and collaborate in developing an effective solution for this problem."

The project has already had a positive impact on the PVB sector, which has shown huge willing and interest in recovering and recycling PVB waste, making it suitable for re-use in many applications.

Moreover, the L'Urederra Technological Centre has been in contact with politicians and authorities from the regional government of Navarra in northern Spain to promote recycling in this field.

The team is currently working on a purification process for PVB that will remove both the contaminants and glass.

"We are finalising the purification system, which is the most innovative part of the process since it is based on a recycling technology developed and patented by L'Urederra," says Fernandez.

Today's recycled PVB suffers from many impurities and use is therefore restricted.

"Whatever little PVB they have been recycling up to now could not be used in laminated glass but only as fillers in carpets or tiles due to impurities," explains Fernandez.

He points out that only a small percentage of laminated glass - the safety class used in windscreens - is normally recycled while remaining post-consumption PVB waste goes to landfills or is incinerated.

"In this respect the newly-developed innovative technology for PVB purification and recycling is expected to contribute significantly to the environment," he says.

On a commercial level, the WS-REC project is expected to have a significant impact on the laminated glass market, both with Spain and internationally.

"This is due not only to the benefits of the windshield but also because it encourages the re-use of recycled material for primary applications," explains Fernandez.

The project is slated for completion by March 2014, by which time the team should have met its objective of developing an effective process for recovering both glass and PVB from windscreens.

The EU has set the target of increasing the ELV recovery level to 95 percent by 2015, and the WS-REC project is helping to make sure the goal is attainable. The project's budget is about EUR 1.4 million, of which the EU has provided half the funding.

Explore further: New life for old TV screens

More information: www.eaci-projects.eu/eco/page/Page.jsp?op=project_detail&prid=1943

Related Stories

New life for old TV screens

September 26, 2013

Television sets have changed dramatically in recent years, with the introduction of flat-screen LCD, plasma and LED monitors. These new technologies have virtually eliminated the old-fashioned cathode ray tube (CRT) once ...

A mark of trust for plastics recyclers

October 21, 2013

The EU project EUCERTPLAST ('European certification of plastics recyclers') has developed a common certification scheme for post-consumer plastics recycling in Europe.

Bitumen roofing can be recycled… but isn't

September 30, 2013

Bitumen, the sticky, gooey black stuff you sometimes see oozing out of hot road surfaces, is a valuable binding agent. Not only in road building. But also in construction and in the production of roofing materials. What ...

Can enamels' environmental impact truly be reduced?

June 7, 2013

Recycling the toxic fluoride by-products from the ceramic and enamel industry into high-quality reusable material reduces the process' environmental impact, but their end of life disposal remains problematic.

When recycling equates with quality raw materials

September 9, 2013

Recycled materials are often of lower quality than the materials from which they were derived. Now the cradle-to-cradle recycling concept has been applied to carpets to deliver high-quality recycled material.

Recommended for you

Swiss unveil stratospheric solar plane

December 7, 2016

Just months after two Swiss pilots completed a historic round-the-world trip in a Sun-powered plane, another Swiss adventurer on Wednesday unveiled a solar plane aimed at reaching the stratosphere.

Solar panels repay their energy 'debt': study

December 6, 2016

The climate-friendly electricity generated by solar panels in the past 40 years has all but cancelled out the polluting energy used to produce them, a study said Tuesday.

Wall-jumping robot is most vertically agile ever built

December 6, 2016

Roboticists at UC Berkeley have designed a small robot that can leap into the air and then spring off a wall, or perform multiple vertical jumps in a row, resulting in the highest robotic vertical jumping agility ever recorded. ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

4 / 5 (1) Nov 13, 2013
How much PVB is involved here? 300k windshields/yr so it can't be much. What is the value of the PVB recovered? What is the cost of recovered PVB vs. virgin PVB? What solvents/reagents are used to dissolve/depolymerize the PVB? How much is lost to evaporation/spills? etc etc.

How rapidly does PVB hydrolyze to biodegradable PVA and BuOH? The quantity is so miniscule the environment can easily handle it.

"In this respect the newly-developed innovative technology for PVB purification and recycling is expected to contribute significantly to the environment," he says.

That's BS. In the scheme of things, this method might make a nice income for a few people if one could overcome the existing environmental regulations and expense of building a small facility but the effect on the environment......?

Just another pie in the sky, utopian, save the Earth scheme.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.