Improve the quality of “Recycled plastic raw material” to the level of virgin plastic.Improvement of production capacity to increase the recycling rate in JapanOHMI BUSSAN CO.,Ltd
Flow of plastic recycling
Points to be noted
- Promote recycling by producing pulverized material and pellets from used plastic
- Focus on research and development through industry-academia-government collaboration
- Install new large machinery utilizing subsidies. Goal is to increase production capacity
Ohmi Bussan Co., Ltd. was established in 1977 as a specialist in plastic recycling.
Among the plastic recycling processes, the company is engaged in manufacturing raw material (Pellets) for recycled plastic, from used plastic. The company annually produces 20,000 tons of 2 products, pulverized material obtained by segregating, pulverizing, and cleaning used plastic, and pellets by homogeneously blending various additives to the pulverized material.
The company first focused on the development of “Print peeling” technology, which was established in 1980. Bottled beverages were common at that time, and the glass bottles were transported in plastic beverage crates. The product and company names were printed on the crates, and printing ink was causing problems when recycling the crates. Even after crushing the crates, some spots of the printing ink used to remain, bringing down the quality of recycled material when reused directly.
The company manufactured a machine to scrape off the printed surfaces. The machine made it possible to produce pulverized material that was homogeneous without containing any printing ink. This enabled the company to improve the quality of recycled products significantly.
The company entered the business of recycling batteries in 1985. Before this, the collection of waste battery and recycling of lead were mainly handled by non-ferrous smelting manufacturers. The company worked with such non-ferrous smelting manufacturers undertaking pulverization of the plastic parts recovered from the battery cases and converting them into pellets. These pellets were again processed into battery cases.
Such recycling process of materials can be broadly divided into three types.
①“Mechanical recycling” in which other industrial products are manufactured using recycled materials
②“Closed loop recycling” in which the same product is manufactured from which the recycled plastic is obtained, for example, battery cases mentioned above
③“Feedstock recycling” in which the quality of recycled material is improved bringing it to the same level as virgin materials
The company focuses on “Feedstock recycling”, and their goal is to dispel the image that “Recycled plastics are for secondary products”.
For this reason, the company is working on technological development according to the “Technology strategy roadmap” for the 3Rs promoted by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Through industry-academia-government collaboration with the Industrial Research Center of Shiga Prefecture, Ryukoku University, and Kanazawa University, the company established a Materials Research Laboratory in 2005 to develop pellets with diverse features.
For example, a material called “Platinum Nano” has antimicrobial properties. This material is often used to manufacture toothbrushes and chopping boards. The company mixes platinum nano with recycled plastic after determining the optimum mixing ratio and produces pellets with antibacterial properties. This is a form of feedstock recycling, and the company has already commercialized the product. Going forward, they will ramp up sales.
Up to now, the company was mainly engaged in business with beverage manufacturers, and companies related to automobile and housing equipment. However, beverages are now distributed primarily in cans and PET bottles rather than glass bottles, and use of crates to transport the glass bottles has declined. Therefore, the company wants to advance research in feedstock recycling, and build stronger partnerships with companies related to automobile and housing equipment.
Seiji Shibahara, the company president said, “Most of the used plastic in Japan is exported to other countries, such as China, if plastic can be recycled and reused in Japan, it will become a significant resource. Our company also wants to contribute so that Japan can become a resource-rich country”.
As the first step, the company received the approval of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry for the “Subsidy Program to Promote Investment in Advanced Equipment as Measures to Deal with Yen Appreciation and Energy Constraints” and installed a new “Twin-Screw Extruder” by investing approximately 100 million yen. The company is working on improving its production capacity.
Interview Date: December 18, 2018
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