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Sponsor Learning Circle

Page history last edited by Elke Vandamme 12 years, 1 month ago





The learning circle 'Eco Freindly Schools' is sponsored by EKOL, a Belgian recycling company and partner of Cunina ngo.

EKOL produces long-lasting products by processing plastic waste in an ecological manner. The plant in Houthalen is particularly environmentally-friendly in design, construction, operation and production process.



EKOL was founded in 1989 by the Kempense Steenkoolmijnen (KS), the Openbare Afvalstoffenmaatschappij voor het Vlaamse Gewest (OVAM), the Limburgse Vinylmaatschappij (LVM) and Eurobox. These partners took this initiative as a result of the positive results of a study conducted by KS on the possibility of recycling plastic waste. The name "EKOL" comes from the first letters of the names of the four founding shareholders.

Pilot project

For its part, the city of Hasselt organised during the same years a pilot project on the selective collection of plastic waste. This project was designed to answer the question whether selectively collected packaging waste could be economically and ecologically recycled into new useful products.


 In order to make it easy for the citizens, all plastic types (PVC, PET, PE, PP, PS, etc.) were collected without distinction and in all possible forms (packaging such as films, pots, bottles, and non-packaging) in a single green bag.


Processing close to home

The processing of the plastic waste into usable materials and products preferably had to take place close to the collection area. In 1991 a pilot installation was commissioned, located on the grounds of the former coal mine of Beringen. The experience acquired with this installation led to the construction of the current production unit in Houthalen. The new buildings and installations were commissioned in August 2000.
In mid-2001 they were formally inaugurated by then-Flemish Minister-President Patrick Dewael. The installation in Beringen was dismantled.



In the design of the installations, great attention was devoted to the eco-efficiency of the recycling process. As well as to the general environmental protection in and around the plant: litter and visual pollution are avoided through storage in a closed hall, rain water - recovered via canals and a pond is used as washing water and there are virtually no discharges.
The annual processing capacity of the plant amounts to 10,000 tonnes of raw plastic waste. This corresponds to the domestic plastic waste of around 1 million citizens and to three months of incineration capacity of the domestic waste incinerator in Houthalen.


Production concept


Plastic waste, selectively collected via container parks or door-to-door collections, is stored in a storage hall protected from wind and rain.

The waste is reduced to the size of a fist and conveyed via an intermediate silo to the first purification stage. In this first stage, gravity is used to separate plastic from heavier impurities such as stones, metal, glass, etc. A magnetic belt recovers the magnetic metal from the heavy stream.

In the second purification stage, paper and (in)organic contamination of the plastic is removed by means of a friction washer. The impurities remain behind in the process water, which is sent to the water treatment plant.

After a second size reduction stage, the washed plastics are brought to a separation tank. On the basis of density differences between the various plastic types, two plastic streams develop: a heavy (sinking) stream which primarily includes PET, PS and PVC, and a light (floating) stream which primarily includes PE and PP.
Both streams are evacuated separately from the separation tank and dried centrifugally.




The heavy stream undergoes an additional deferrization, is ground down to 8 mm and is stored in silos.
The light stream is further dried thermally and divided in an air separator into a hard stream (primarily HDPE) and a soft stream (primarily PE films). The soft stream is agglomerated into rough granules. Both streams are stored separately in silos.



Since 1991 EKOL has recycled, in an environmentally-friendly manner, over 69,000 tonnes of mixed plastic waste coming from around 750,000 inhabitants from Limburg, Flemish-Brabant and the Antwerp Kempen region into final products. Thus making a useful contribution to reducing waste which otherwise would have to be dumped in landfill or incinerated. Moreover, the company devotes great attention to the eco-efficiency of the recycling process with regard to its own waste production, energy consumption, water consumption and treatment.

EKOL products can be processed like wood: drilled, milled, cut with a saw. They are naturally grey in colour, come in various textures and shades, but they are always attractive. If desired or for uniformity in a series, a plastic coating can give them a colour from a wide range of possibilities.



More information on www.ekol.be

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