Recycle - Composite Materials Program
The Status of the Wood Based Industries
Deforestation, environmental regulations related to water quality, storm water runoff, erosion control, air cleansing, etc. are reducing the amount of wood available for commercial uses. As a result, increased demand and a reduced cutting on some national forests have led to an increase in the wood fiber prices.
Declining forest inventories and a growing world population in need of buildings and furniture are causing a high demand for new materials able to replace solid wood products. Solid wood replacement products – particle board, oriented strand board (OSB) and especially medium density fiberboard (MDF) are experiencing growth rates.
A growing environmental concern for particle boards producers worldwide exists though in their reliance on Urea Formaldehyde resins (used for fast curing time) in the manufacturing process. (UF continues to emit harmful gases long after manufactured). The alternative substitute resins used result in longer curing times and accordingly in significantly increasee manufacturing costs.
Lion Alternative Energy PLC (Lion) has developed a new non polluting technology that allows the global low cost production of composite construction materials based entirely on the use of post consumer, industrial and agricultural waste.
The Economics of Plastic Recycling
Why hasn’t industry taken to reusing plastics as they have, say, aluminum or glass? In case of aluminum it is less expensive to reprocess existing aluminum than to mine new bauxite and smelt it through an energy intensive process. In case of plastics the issue is economics (although dyes, polymer chemistry, government policies and public perceptions also figure in).
Most plastic recycling is a losing proposition financially not likely to become economically feasible unless a big increase in the price of petroleum (from which plastic is made) would occur, or an acute lack of landfill space, or stricter government regulations . Germany was an isolated success story in organizing the plastic recycling through government intervention and subsidies.
Due to the inherent liability to the manufacturers, the use of the recycled plastic has limited applications. (in many instances it is not approved for use in containers that come in contact with food and drink). The reality is that some of the plastic recycling that goes on now is motivated strictly by environmental p.r. by companies that can afford the extra cost (it actually could end up costing more to use recycled plastic).
If all efforts at productive recycling fail, in some cases it is financially smarter to just incinerate plastic and produce energy. (after all the polymers started out as petroleum). From an environmental standpoint, burning the plastic beats burying it in the ground or dumping it in the ocean, assuming proper air pollution controls are used. (Switzerland incinerates 60 % of its trash, Japan 80%). Evolving stricter pollution norms are restricting burning the plastic though even if newer cleaner burning technologies are emerging.
The new Lion technology can convert the unsorted plastic scrap mix into low cost versatile construction materials with superior qualities through a low cost and environmentally clean process.
The Status of the Plastic Scrap Recycling Technologies
Currently, only a small percentage of the plastic produced in the world is being recycled. (approx. 25% in the U.S. and much less in the rest of the world with the exception of few industrialized countries).
The plastic recycling business consists of 3 main stages: 1) collection and sorting, 2) cleaning and reprocessing, 3) blending and marketing.
In the initial sorting stage, entrepreneurs are faced first with the separation of the plastic waste from various waste categories with possible pigment or other content problems, and then with the major task of separating by category the mishmash of different polymers. New emerging automatic sorting technologies make it possible now to a large extent to recover plastics from mixed solid waste, but the sorting by polymer category to allow recycling has remained a tedious, economically prohibitive challenge.
The present uses of the recycled unsorted plastic waste are limited: plastic lumber, road surfacing material, insulation materials, conversion to gaseous (Ex: syngas) and liquid products for chemical manufacturers, or merely burning for energy recovery. The plastic lumber using a mixture of various recycled plastics is presently, largely a product in search of a market, until more building contractors and the public adopt the product.
The Status of the Tires Recycling Technologies
Globally, over one billion tires reach their end of life each year and are dumped in already overflowing stockpiles and illegal landfills. As a rule of thumb, the scrap tire generation in industrialized countries is approx. one passenger car tire per capita per year. Each tire contains approx.: 85% rubber, 12% steel and 3 % fiber. There are at this time in the world billions of tires that have to be disposed of. While scrap tires represent less than 2% of the total solid waste stream, their disposal is a growing complex problem since worn tires have no positive sale value, are not biodegradable and present a high combustion risk.
Currently, less than 5% of tires worldwide are being recycled and the use of tires as alternative energy fuel presents environmental challenges. There are currently limited viable solutions to the scrap tire problem and dumping of tires is on the rise. Main solutions currently used are:
Landfills. Most of the scrap tires (over 75%) are landfilled. Burying whole tires, is not a good disposal option though because tires are resistant to compaction and take up a disproportionate amount of space. In some landfills, methane gas given off by decaying waste, collects in the tires’ cavities causing them to float to the surface, becoming a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes and rats.
Stockpiling. Roughly 10% of scrap tires are stockpiled in anticipation of finding a future use. This presents a high fire hazard and the clean up cost of tire fires is estimated to be greater than 10 times the cost of tire pile abatement. (Not taking into account the toxic chemicals released).
Granulated (crumb) rubber is obtained by freezing and then shattering the rubber, after which steel and fiber are separated out using screens, magnets and density techniques. Crumb rubber could be used as a substitute for virgin rubber or as additive in asphalt cement for paving roads. (though experts say that the long term risk of air born particles resulting from the wear and tear in case of pavement use has not been fully evaluated).
Rethreading worn tires is estimated to divert 10 -15% from the waste stream and each rethreaded tire saves approx. 4 gallons of oil. However, rethreading has declined over the last 15 years because the cost of new tires is comparable to quality retreads, and the public perceives the retreads as of lower quality. Also, technological developments have resulted in higher quality tires that meet tougher safety and performance standards, and have longer life spans. At the same time, reclaiming rubber from scrap tires so it can be used again in the production of new tires has become more difficult due to their complex chemistry.
Devulcanization involves breaking down the sulfur links that are crossed between rubber polymer chains in vulcanized rubber using various processes and chemical modifiers. Some processes claim a resulting rubber cost of less than half that of virgin rubber. Retention of most of the properties of the original rubber enables devulcanized rubber to be used by itself or mixed with virgin rubber in a 30% ratio. Devulcanization allows for the reuse of a higher percentage of recycled rubber in tires (up to 90%) than the widely used recycling technologies – incineration and crumb rubber .
Incineration. While not environmentally sound, incineration of whole or shredded tires is currently used to recover energy. Scrap tires have about 10% more heat value by weight than coal and burn comparatively cleaner. Tire derived fuel is used in Japan, the U.S., and Europe, and the demand is expected to grow. The environmental consequences are the release of toxic emissions recognized as carcinogens: volatile organic chemicals such as benzene, chloroform, 1, 2 dichloroethane, methylene chloride and metals such as lead, mercury, chromium and zinc.
Pyrolysis. Consists in the thermal decomposition of scrap tires under the exclusion of ambient oxygen. The typical pyrolysis products are: hydrocarbon gases and oils, low grade carbon black and steel. Pyrolysis plays only a marginal role in the scrap tire industry since it seems there is no environmentally safe and economically viable established pyrolysis process in operation yet.
The new Lion technology allows the integration of recycled rubber in a large range of high quality construction materials through an environmentally clean process.
Coal Ash Reclamation
The power industry of many countries is still reliant to a large extent on coal fired plants. The inorganic residue, that remains after pulverized coal is burned, is known collectively as “Coal combustion byproducts” (CCP). Fly Ash is the finely divided CCB collected by electrostatic precipitators from the flue gases. Boiler slag and Bottom ash are the heavier and coarser coal combustion byproducts.
CCBs rapidly accumulate (roughly less than 20% of the total coal ash generated is being currently used: added to cement to make concrete, replacement soil for the reclamation of abandoned mine lands, reduce acidity of mine drainage from abandoned mines and as re-vegetation with coal ash of the soils for apple orchards.) and causes disposal problems.
The new Lion technology could incorporate coal ash in a number of applications (railroad ties, concrete forming panels, industrial floors, etc.) in which the increased specific weight of the materials would be acceptable.
Non Wood Fibers – The Agro Fiber Waste and the Future of Rural Economies
Recent developments in public policy, technological progress and entrepreneurial initiative are bringing into existence a new industry based on non-wood fibers and are opening up vast new markets for agricultural waste fibers. Increased worldwide demand and a reduced cutting on some national forests have led to an increase in the wood fiber prices. Major corporations and venture capital are getting involved in the vegetable fiber industry.
One response to the environmental concerns related to deforestation is a new emerging industry: tree farms (rather than forests) where fast growing trees are cultivated much like crops (Ex: paulownia tree farms in Australia, eucalyptus with 8 year harvest cycle or fast growing hybrid poplars) and new fiber species crops (ex.: kenaf). Another outcome has been the increased recycling of trash wood and waste paper.
While fast growing fiber crops, and wood or paper recycling contribute to the new fiber supply configuration, the major supply source in the next decades will likely come from agricultural cellulosic residue. It is estimated that the quantity of economically and environmentally recoverable waste fibers available each year exceeds the fiber contained in the wood used for all purposes.
Until recently, these fibers have been thrown away or burned. But rising disposal costs and bans on
burning of crop residues have created the premises where new enterprises can convert the waste fibers into pulp, paper, and construction materials. Environmental regulations have not only decreased the supply of available wood, they have increased the supply of available waste vegetable fibers.
Farmers as Manufacturers
Farmers have long recognized that, as just raw materials providers, their profit margins have declined continuously in favor of distributors. That is why, a solution is a value added new kind of cooperative: a producer owned agricultural factory. Rather than just buy new equipment or more land and expand operations horizontally, farmers could benefit from creating manufacturing facilities and expand their operations vertically. Regional governments in farm areas could assist with organizing such structures.
Agricultural waste fibers as raw material for the construction materials industry could lead to a new industrial infrastructure rooted in rural communities. Agricultural materials are bulky and expensive to transport therefore the best processing location is near where they are generated. The proliferation of the waste vegetable fiber based manufacturing sector shall realize important benefits for the rural economies: savings in disposal costs, generate local employment, generate additional revenues.
The Lion technology allows the utilization of agricultural wastes from practically any crops: wheat straw, soybean, corn, kenaf, bagasse, bamboo, hemp, rice straw, flax, milkweed, nut shells, seed grass straw, sun flower, cotton, vine, raspberry, soya, sorghum, guar, etc. in addition to saw dust. The technology will allow a wide utilization of lignocellulosic content of the agricultural wastes stalk particles as a substitute of wood and particle boards, as raw materials for a large range of construction materials.
The new technology could empower rural communities to create local agricultural – industrial facilities that shall either prepare the cellulosic aggregate to be sold to the construction materials industry, or to organize production lines and make themselves the low cost, versatile construction materials in the Lion product line, that shall stimulate the local building industry. The new rural economies, shall no more produce only plant matter for food and feed, but shall include agricultural factories as well.
The Lion Composite Materials Technology
Basically, the Lion composite material technology consists of a proprietary process which turns unsorted plastic scrap mix into a powder which is then used as a matrix for composite materials which can incorporate practically any type of fill materials. The main features of the Lion technology are:
It can use an unsorted mix of various polymer scrap materials.
It can use a combination polymer matrix / fill material in a ratio of 25 – 30% plastic / 70 – 75% fill, (as opposed to other existing processes that use a higher plastic content).
It can combine layers with different fill content and properties which even having different physical and chemical properties would work structurally together through the continuity of the polymer matrix or by using additional reinforcement (polymer fibers, fiber glass, carbon or textile fiber, steel, etc.)
The products could be recycled at any time in the future into new products. (by regrinding the product into fill material to be used in a new product).
As a result, the Lion composite materials could be customized practically for any application, with features superior to existing materials in terms of cost, material qualities and versatility:
Lion Composite Materials Products
GENERAL PLANKS AND PILINGS
ELEMENTS FOR MARINE CONSTRUCTION
CONCRETE FORMING PANELS
SHIPPING PALLETS AND CONTAINERS
SHOCK ABSORBING FLOORS
HEAT RADIANT FLOORS
SOUND PROOF FLOORS
STRUCTURAL ELEMENTS (POSTS, BEAMS, TRUSSES)
THERMALLY INSULATED WATERPROOF WALLS
RADIANT OR PHASE CHANGE (HEAT ABSORBING) WALLS
*THERMALLY INSULATED WATERPROOF ROOF PANELS *All wall and roof panels are structural self supporting elements
DOORS AND WINDOW FRAMES FURNITURE
COMPLETE MANUFACTURED HOMES
Features of the Lion Composite Materials
Due to the high percentage content of fill materials (over 70%) the properties of the Lion composite materials could be customized for practically any applications by the use of various fill materials and / or a combination of multiple layers of materials with different content and properties. (structural performance, wear and tear resistance, fire resistance, water resistance, specific weight, thermal conductivity, finishing quality and color, porosity, thermal insulation, etc.)
The multiple layers with different properties, work structurally together, so that the products could be customized to respond to various applications requirements.
Very favorable ratio between the specific weight and mechanical stress parameters, (break resistance, elasticity module, density, etc.), superior to those of wood and particle boards.
High fire resistance if desired.
Waterproof, water resistance and chemical substances resistance.
High resistance to solar radiation exposure.
High dimensions stability in varying humidity and temperature conditions.
Low specific weight, (due to the high cellulosic content) leading to economies in building’s structures.
Can be pressed in molds or different profiles, extruded or machined in various shapes.
Can be reinforced with synthetic polymer fibers, carbon or glass fibers, steel, etc. and could be used as such as structural elements (similar with reinforced concrete).
Finished surfaces can be enhanced to imitate any material (wood veneer, plastic film, rubber, metal plating, stone, marble, etc.) Use of saw dust has resulted in materials with natural wood appearance.
Economics of the Lion Composite Materials
The Lion manufacturing process can deliver high quality construction materials to the market at a cost 50- 70% below the cost of competing materials for the following combined reasons:
– All raw material used (agrofibers waste, plastic scrap mix, used tires, etc.) consists of waste materials or byproducts that can be acquired at a low cost or at now cost (or even in some territories subsidized).
– Placing the plants near both the raw material (waste) and the consumer markets, could lead to freight savings as compared to conventional facilities located in remote heavily forested areas.
– There are no production wastes, since any production remnants are recycled into new products, as well as finished products at the end of their life cycle.
The proliferation of the Lion composite materials technology will contribute to reducing deforestation.
The ability of the technology to use unsorted plastic scrap and used tires will allow the recovery of a large category of waste which otherwise has to be incinerated or landfilled.
The products could be recycled at any time in the future into new products, by grinding them and using the powder obtained as fill material in new products, this leading to long term repeat cycles of reduced waste, raw material and energy savings.
The products do not release any volatile toxic emissions (such as the Formaldehyde Resins, Urea or Phenol used by existing particle board industries).
The manufacturing process does not release pollutants.
Placing the plants near the raw material sources would lead to reduced freight related pollution.
There are no production wastes, since any production remnants can be recycled into new products.
At the global economy scale, the use of waste as raw materials and the recycling of obsolete products into new products, leads to energy savings (and emissions reduction).
The Lion technology is expected to have major beneficial impact on local economies by providing an environmentally safe and economically viable solution for the recycling of plastic scrap, tires and agricultural waste, providing entrepreneurs with a tool to organize local recycling, prevent deforestation, revitalize rural economies, causing a reduction in global energy consumption and pollution, and finally, providing cheaper and superior versatile construction materials.
Lion Development Strategy
Currently, due to the absence of economically feasible recycling technologies, only few countries which can afford to subsidize the process have organized the recycling of plastic and tires (ex: Germany). Lion shall pursue in world markets the following activities:
1) Assist local entrepreneurs in organizing the collection of plastic scrap and used tires and build in joint venture with them composite construction materials plants
2) Assist farmers coops in organizing regional agrofibers deposits and production of construction materials
3) Develop low cost energy independent manufactured homes based on complementary proprietary Lion clean energy technologies.
Collection and Preparation of Vegetal Powders
The preparation of the vegetal powders (with minor variations related to the specific crop) consists of packing the agricultural waste in bales of 15 – 20 Kg and transportation to a warehouse where the bales are stocked to 4 – 6 m heights. The bales are sent as needed to an intermediary drying deposit, then to a chopper where they are turned into 10 – 30 mm particles and sent further to the a waiting bunker equipped with cyclone battery and adequate filters. The hashed fiber is turned by a crusher mill into a powder with 0.15 – 0.5 mm particles content, which is delivered to an intermediary bunker and then to the dosage bunker.
Collection, Compacting and Shipping of Plastic Scrap
The plastic scrap is compacted at the collection points (sorting is not required) using proprietary compacting equipment (which shall be provided by Lion to the collection point entrepreneurs) and transported to the warehouse which is sized for a three months supply and then to a daily intermediary deposit. From there, the material is delivered to the powder production cycles.
Preparation of Polymer Powder
The choppers break up the material into 5 – 20mm particles, which are sent to a bunker and then into the plasticizing cycle and the rest of the polymeric powders preparation process. The powder is then washed and delivered by a helical conveyer to the dryer which works in a fluid bed. The powder is dried with hot air provided by a blower, then cooled in a second dryer section (equipped with cyclone battery filters). The powder is finally sent to the intermediary bunker, then to mixing bunker and the dosage bunkers.
In the cryogenic cycle the polymeric scrap is passed through the chopper and then through the cooling tunnel and the cryogenic mill, magnetic separator, the churning. The fine powder resulted is sent to the mixing bunker and the large particle powder is recycled in the cryogenic cycle.
Preparation of Rubber Powder
Used tires stored in a warehouse are sent as required to an intermediary deposit and then to the shredding mill. The mix containing wire and plastic cords passes through the cooling tunnel, then through the cryogenic mill and the magnetic separator where the metal particles are retained. The mix is then passed through the textiles fiber separator which retains the fiber particles in a deposit from which finally, two kinds of powder result : 0.15 – 0.45 mm and over 0.45 mm.
The small particle powder is sent through an intermediary bunker to the dosage bunker and mixer bunker or, through alternative bunkers to special application processes requiring a predominant rubber content. The large particles powder collected is recycled in the cryogenic cycle
Pressing – Molding and Surface Finishing
From the dosage bunkers the vegetal & polymer powders (including rubber powder or coal ash as the case may be) are mixed in ratios customized for the specific application and then delivered by the belt conveyor to the molding – pressing cycle where specific automated pressure and temperature parameters are applied depending on the qualities of the product desired.
In case of products using multiple layers of various materials, each layer is first obtained in the initial pressing cycle, and then the multiple layers are pressed together with a vast variety of resulting products. Finally, a large range of finishing surfaces could be applied to the products.
The Composite Materials Plant Module
The plant module can be customized depending on the predominant raw materials used and the type of finished products. The plant module includes in addition to the production functions the warehouses for the raw materials (agrofibers, plastic scrap, used tires and coal ash). If restricted by local zoning or land availability, the raw materials warehouses could be located at a separate location and the raw materials could be brought to short term intermediary deposits adjacent to the plant as needed.
The equipment of the polymer powder preparation cycle is based on proprietary equipment manufactured by Lion. (the cryogenic powders installation and the surface finishing equipment are not proprietary, but are provided as part of the total installation).
The plant module includes automated pressing machines and extruders with a total annual production of 5 – 30,000,000 m2 of panels, (depending on the feeding speed, ranging from 3 m2/min – 30 m2/min). The cost of a complete plant is approx. USD 8 – 15,000,000. (depending on the production capacity, specific location and construction costs and the complexity of the finishing stage of the materials produced).