RePlaCe - Protyping of Recycled Plastic Conveyor Belt Machine and Demonstration of Recycled Plastics Structural Applications

LIFE08 ENV/IT/000393

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Contact details:

Project Manager: Marzia VIRGINIO
Tel: +39 0444 440 320
Fax: +39 0444 440 844
Email: replace@plasticmetal.it

Project description:


Currently, the mechanical characteristics of aluminium components, especially in terms of rigidity and resilience to breakage, are much superior to those made from recycled plastic: this means that although recycled plastic is used for auxiliary or accessory parts, it is not used for main structural features. The car and construction industries are increasing their use of non-recycled plastic for structural applications. This demand for new plastic or metal comes at a heavy price, both in economic and environmental terms. In theory, however, pre- or post-consumer recycled plastic could be an immediately available alternative to metals and other materials for many structural applications, reducing costs and environmental impact. In 2007, the Research and Development Office of Plastic Metal S.p.A. designed and constructed a prototype pilot plant able of transforming the heterogeneous mixture received from the differentiated collection of waste plastics into manufactured items. The technologies used are normally implemented in the treatment of thermo-plastic materials.


The RePlaCe project aimed to demonstrate that it is possible to use recycled plastic, not only for the production of accessory or auxiliary elements, but also structural features. The project sets out to construct a prototype conveyor belt using components made from recycled plastic (mainly pre-consumer post-industrial-recyclate) with the intention to show a successful final product with key structural elements, such as side bars, made from the recycled plastic, rather than the usual aluminium.

The project sought to overcome the existing weaknesses of recycled plastic. A standardised component assembly process would be worked out to compensate for the different degrees of post-moulding shrinkage encountered with the different types of plastic: this should improve the rigidity and resilience of the final recycled-plastic material. The new approach would involve the large-scale re-introduction of plastic waste into the production process. As well as replacing alternative ‘virgin’ raw materials, this would also encourage the replacement of metals more generally, since the virgin plastics used would be increasingly recyclable because of the existence of new applications.

In addition to the environmental benefits - mainly from the reduced use of new metals - preliminary studies suggested that the total production cost for the conveyor belt should be reduced by around 10%. The project aimed to disseminate its results to encourage the use of recycled plastics.


The RePlaCe project activities were mainly implemented in line with the initial proposal. However, the project’s three main objectives were only partially achieved.

The first objective, the construction of a conveyor belt machine, was achieved successfully. The machine has been built according to specifications and functions as expected.

Objective number two, the production of structural products (tiles for factory floors) made from recycled plastic, was only partially achieved. The idea of using recycled plastic for structural purposes proved to be feasible and tiles of this material were produced. There was, however, not enough recycled plastic available at a suitably low price, so the beneficiary was obliged to use virgin plastic to produce the chosen structural product.

The third objective involved the dissemination of the products produced (i.e. the tiles). These activities were again only partially successful because of a lack of interest from potential customers. The colour (grey-black) and the high price of the tiles in comparison with other alternatives has severely limited market acceptance.

The challenge for the future and to ensure the sustainability of the project is to find plastic that can be recycled at a suitable price. This issue could not be solved within the framework of the project because it is a completely different issue based on waste separation and collection.

Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).


Environmental issues addressed:


Waste - Waste recycling
Waste - Packaging and plastic waste


waste recycling‚  plastic waste

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Coordinator Plastic Metal S.p.A.
Type of organisation International enterprise
Description The core business of Plastic Metal S.p.A. is the production of injection presses for the moulding of thermo-plastics with a double-toggle clamping system.
Partners F.lli Virginio S.r.l., Italy Vivi S.r.l., Italy Etra S.p.A., Italy


Project reference LIFE08 ENV/IT/000393
Duration 01-JAN-2010 to 30-JUN -2012
Total budget 1,510,200.00 €
EU contribution 666,350.00 €
Project location Veneto(Italia)


Read more:

Project web site Project's website
Publication: After-LIFE Communication Plan After-LIFE Communication Plan
Publication: Layman report Layman report
Publication: Technical report Project's Final technical report


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version