The ABSolEU project is an initiative funded under the EU’s Horizon Europe Programme. It is simultaneously a multilateral collaboration that aims to pave the way to circularity for the ubiquitous plastic ABS, found in durable products from toys and other consumer goods to automotive components, and therefore revolutionise the current state of the art of ABS recycling in Europe and beyond.

How will the ABSolEU work?

The ABSolEU project will develop and mature an innovative technology for the physical recycling of waste ABS, providing clean and safe recyclates that are free of additives and contaminants, i.e., ready to be reintroduced into the value chain for high performance products. In addition, project partners will develop new analytical methods for safety and quality assurance, raising awareness about the composition of ABS waste streams, and will provide the scaffolding to support the adoption of physical recycling for ABS and the uptake of ABS recyclates by industry and consumers. To this end, it is expected that by the end of the project they will be able to lay the first bricks of a sustainable future for ABS plastics in Europe and beyond.


What is plastic ABS?

ABS is not a single-use plastic. On the contrary, in the world of plastics it can be considered as one of the most durable. ABS is a complex material made of three components:

  • A = Acrylonitrile à provides thermal and chemical stability

  • B = Butadiene à provides toughness and strength

  • S = Styrene à gives the glossy finish

ABS plastic is specifically designed with long-lasting products in mind and is therefore able to withstand long and intense use phases. The proportions of the components (A, B and S) can vary and are adapted according to the properties desired in the resulting ABS. For instance, the composition, the nature of additives and the processing will vary significantly between toys (e.g., Lego bricks), automotive parts and electronic equipment.
As a thermoplastic, ABS can in theory be fully recycled. But the fact that ABS can have different grades and compositions, due to altering the degree of each component, can make recycling difficult. Recycling efforts are moreover often hampered by the presence of additives and fillers. The uncertainty around the presence of such undesirable substances, as well as the difficulty in removing, them generates problems regarding the purity and quality of the resulting secondary plastics. This raises health and safety concerns that limit the reuse of secondary ABS plastics for certain applications. It would be problematic indeed if ABS wastes from old electric and electronic equipment (containing additives such as flame retardant) are recycled into ABS products for children’s toys.

In combination with the fact that recycled ABS, like many plastics, loses quality and performance over time, the end-of-life scenario for ABS products is in 85 % of cases landfill or incineration. Only a marginal quantity of ABS from consumer electronics and appliances is today collected, mechanically recycled and sold again for consumer applications. The quality of these streams is also difficult to control, due to the heterogeneous composition of ABS resulting from the diversity of applications and grades applied to such products, and the concerns about harmful additives prevail.


ABSolEU beyond the EU

ABSolEU is in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the UN Member States in 2015. In particular, the tasks and activities of the project aim to contribute directly to the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):