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Upcycling for Valuable Plastics from Old Refrigerators

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Several white refrigerators standing next to each other © Richard Johnson​/​Adobe Stock
In the “Circular Foam” proj­ect, old refrigerators containing high-grade plastics are to be converted into new raw materials for the chemical industry.

A con­sor­tium from nine European coun­tries wants in fu­ture to upcycle valuable plastic waste: In the “Circular Foam” proj­ect, old refrigerators or façade elements containing high-grade plastics are to be converted into new raw materials for the chemical industry. Among the 22 partners from re­search and industry involved are Pro­fes­sor Se­bas­ti­an Engell, Pro­fes­sor for Process Dynamics and Operations at the Department of Biochemical and Chemical Engineering of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity, and his team. Pro­fes­sor Engell was involved in planning the proj­ect and will lead a work package.

If Europe wants to become the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050, it will be necessary, among other things, to develop in­no­va­ti­ve recycling solutions. This is where the new proj­ect comes in: The con­sor­tium will develop a concept that shows how waste containing high-grade plastics can be converted into valuable products. Specifically, this involves rigid polyurethane (PU) foams from insulation in refrigerators and building components, which are to be converted into raw materials for PU production in a resource-friendly way. Here, the aim is to use processes such as chemolysis and intelligent pyrolysis. The con­sor­tium will examine the entire material flow chain – from the collection of the waste to its sorting, se­pa­ra­tion and treatment, to further chemical processing and feeding into existing production processes.

Integrated system analysis and overall system de­sign

“We will pursue a regional approach and develop this first of all for the Cologne-Aachen and Amsterdam regions as examples,” says Pro­fes­sor Se­bas­ti­an Engell. “The results can then be transferred to other European regions.” Pro­fes­sor Engell will lead the work package “Integrated System Analysis and Overall System Design”, in which the various elements of the processing chain will be modelled, simulated and optimally aligned with each other using an integrated approach.

Portrait of a man © Roland Baege​/​TU Dort­mund
Pro­fes­sor Se­bas­ti­an Engell is Pro­fes­sor for Process Dynamics and Operations at the Department of Biochemical and Chemical Engineering.

The “Circular Foam” proj­ect was selected by the European Commission in the frame­work of the Green Deal calls for proposals and is being funded by the EU’s Horizon 2020 program. A total of around € 19 million will be allocated to the proj­ect over a period of four years, of which € 760,000 will go to the Department of Biochemical and Chemical Engineering at TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity. The in­ter­na­tio­nal con­sor­tium is headed by Covestro AG in Leverkusen.

To the proj­ect website


Contact for further in­for­mation:

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Location & approach

The campus of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity is located close to interstate junction Dort­mund West, where the Sauerlandlinie A 45 (Frankfurt-Dort­mund) crosses the Ruhrschnellweg B 1 / A 40. The best interstate exit to take from A 45 is “Dort­mund-Eichlinghofen” (closer to South Cam­pus), and from B 1 / A 40 “Dort­mund-Dorstfeld” (closer to North Cam­pus). Signs for the uni­ver­si­ty are located at both exits. Also, there is a new exit before you pass over the B 1-bridge leading into Dort­mund.

To get from North Cam­pus to South Cam­pus by car, there is the connection via Vo­gel­pothsweg/Baroper Straße. We recommend you leave your car on one of the parking lots at North Cam­pus and use the H-Bahn (suspended monorail system), which conveniently connects the two campuses.

TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity has its own train station (“Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät”). From there, suburban trains (S-Bahn) leave for Dort­mund main station (“Dort­mund Hauptbahnhof”) and Düsseldorf main station via the “Düsseldorf Airport Train Station” (take S-Bahn number 1, which leaves every 15 or 30 minutes). The uni­ver­si­ty is easily reached from Bo­chum, Essen, Mülheim an der Ruhr and Duis­burg.

You can also take the bus or subway train from Dort­mund city to the uni­ver­si­ty: From Dort­mund main station, you can take any train bound for the Station “Stadtgarten”, usually lines U41, U45, U 47 and U49. At “Stadtgarten” you switch trains and get on line U42 towards “Hombruch”. Look out for the Station “An der Palmweide”. From the bus stop just across the road, busses bound for TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity leave every ten minutes (445, 447 and 462). Another option is to take the subway routes U41, U45, U47 and U49 from Dort­mund main station to the stop “Dort­mund Kampstraße”. From there, take U43 or U44 to the stop “Dort­mund Wittener Straße”. Switch to bus line 447 and get off at “Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S”.

The AirportExpress is a fast and convenient means of transport from Dort­mund Airport (DTM) to Dort­mund Central Station, taking you there in little more than 20 minutes. From Dort­mund Central Station, you can continue to the uni­ver­si­ty campus by interurban railway (S-Bahn). A larger range of in­ter­na­tio­nal flight connections is offered at Düsseldorf Airport (DUS), which is about 60 kilometres away and can be directly reached by S-Bahn from the uni­ver­si­ty station.

The H-Bahn is one of the hallmarks of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity. There are two stations on North Cam­pus. One (“Dort­mund Uni­ver­si­tät S”) is directly located at the suburban train stop, which connects the uni­ver­si­ty directly with the city of Dort­mund and the rest of the Ruhr Area. Also from this station, there are connections to the “Technologiepark” and (via South Cam­pus) Eichlinghofen. The other station is located at the dining hall at North Cam­pus and offers a direct connection to South Cam­pus every five minutes.

The facilities of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity are spread over two campuses, the larger Cam­pus North and the smaller Cam­pus South. Additionally, some areas of the uni­ver­si­ty are located in the adjacent “Technologiepark”.

Site Map of TU Dort­mund Uni­ver­sity (Second Page in English).