Polyolefins maker Borealis says that the upgraded wastewater treatment system at its integrated production location in Schwechat, Austria, is now fully operational. Successful tests of the new multi-step system, which was installed in November 2019, show that the facility is now even more effective than before in reducing the risk of unintentional plastics spillage or loss. Borealis invested around EUR 6 million in the custom-built filtration system, which is the result of collaboration with Austrian universities and technology providers.
The new filtration system in Schwechat is the most recent example of concrete measures taken at an operational level to achieve “Zero Pellet Loss,” the umbrella term for Borealis and industry efforts to reduce spillage. Regular internal monitoring of wastewater flows ensures that emissions always remain within stringent regulatory parameters.
Borealis collaboration with the Technische Universität Wien (TU Wien) and Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) provided a way forward in the upgrade of the Schwechat treatment system. After determining at the start of the project that there were no off-the-shelf solutions that offered better performance than the existing equipment, Borealis engineers first worked closely with scientists from these universities to find novel ways to measure the presence of plastic matter in water before proceeding to design and construct its own new systems for removing such matter from wastewater.
The custom-built filtration infrastructure installed on the Schwechat grounds towards the end of 2019 includes two separate filtration systems for the multi-stage treatment of clean water. This novel system is able to filter a broad range of particle sizes of total suspended solids (TSS), from several millimetres to extremely fine – in the low micrometre range. The equipment is installed downstream from existing polymer separators and acts as an additional layer of protection. A study of the TU Wien confirms that the filtration system has enabled it to make a step change in the purity of its wastewater.
Borealis has and will further leverage learnings from the study as well as the development of this custom-built filtration system not only in all its production locations to further improve its operations, but also the whole value chain to foster the European “Zero Pellet Loss” and Operation Clean Sweep goals.
“The purification capabilities we had in place in Schwechat were already good, but the upgraded system boasts a level of sophistication that is leading in all of Europe’s plastics industry,” says Borealis CEO Alfred Stern. “Innovating for more sustainable living together with our partners in science and making substantial investments in such upgrades enhances our operational excellence. We intend to deliver on our commitment to reducing plastics loss in order to achieve our ‘Goal Zero’ of no losses whatsoever.”
Alongside operational measures, the Borealis “Zero Pellet Loss” effort encompasses a wide range of activities within the industry. It was an early signatory to Operation Clean Sweep (OCS), an international programme initiated by the Society of the Plastics Industry and the American Chemistry Council. In Europe, this programme is coordinated by PlasticsEurope, and in 2019, Borealis contributed to the drafting of stringent new requirements. In Austria, Borealis is also a signatory to the “Zero Pellet Loss” pact, which shares similar goals to the OCS programme.