Recycled Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (R-ABS)

Meet the Lego brick thermoplastic: R-ABS

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) represents a thermoplastic offering adjustable strength, rigidity, and toughness in one material. The ABS with its glossy and easily paintable surface offers an aesthetic appearance and enables a broad range of applications.

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Recycled ABS applications

What products can be made of recycled ABS?

Virgin and recycled ABS (R-ABS) have low density and thermal conductivity. Furthermore, they are easy to process using typical thermoplastic processing technologies. The possibility to improve the material properties of the ABS according to the application-specific requirements enables their use in various fields.

Both virgin and recycled ABS are commonly used for non-food-grade applications. Similarly, as a virgin ABS, the recycled ABS is available commercially both as a neat resin, a blend with other thermoplastics, like polycarbonate, and/or filled with minerals. The recycled ABS can be used for the manufacture of various technical injection molded, 3D-printed components and sheets, especially if the weight of the respective component plays an important role. Common applications are housings, pipes, fittings, or insulation components for the automotive, vacuum, building, and prototype construction as well as the electronics sector. Furthermore, due to its low melting temperature and good mechanical properties in addition to the low density, the recycled ABS plays an increasingly significant role in 3D printing.

A virgin food-grade ABS is used for the manufacture of processors and refrigerator linings.


R-ABS material properties

What are the benefits and drawbacks of recycled ABS?

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) is an amorphous thermoplastic copolymer produced by the polymerization of styrene and acrylonitrile in the presence of polybutadiene. Depending on the proportion of the individual components, ABS has a density between 1.02 to 1.06 g/cm³ and a good chemical and abrasion resistance. The material properties, especially the impact resistance, toughness, and stiffness, are also determined by its composition. Furthermore, during compounding, the toughness can be significantly improved using suitable modifiers, like thermoplastic elastomers.

Commercially available recycled ABS is typically produced using mechanical recycling technology and afterward blended with virgin ABS to produce a partially recycled plastic with desired material properties. The ABS is suitable for the manufacture of components subjected to a service temperature lower than 80° C. At the same time, this temperature can be increased using suitable thermal stabilizers. Further additives used to improve the properties of the recycled ABS are various lubricants, UV and hydrolysis stabilizers, or reinforcing fibers like glass fibers. ABS can be extruded, injection-, blow-molded, or processed by 3D printing.


ABS waste feedstock

Which sources can be used for ABS recycling?

There are various sources of post-industrial post-consumer ABS waste. The common feedstock of post-industrial ABS are various non-food-grade production residues, like off cuts of thermoformed sheets, injection molded parts and sprue of acrylic-bonded or mineral-filled ABS. The feedstock of a post-consumer ABS is electrical and electronic waste, pipes, etc

A prerequisite for the production of a food-grade recycled ABS is the design of clean waste streams. The ABS recyclates are generally available as a regrind, regranulate, recompound, or shredded material.

The content of this page has been created in collaboration with independent experts: 
Dr. Madina Shamsuyeva (Head of Department Plastics recycling and Technology, Plastics analytics at the IKK - Institute for Plastics and Circular Economy of the Leibniz University Hanover)

Dr. Uwe Zander (Co-owner of Voelpker Wax Academy GmbH with more than 30 years experience in the plastic processing industry, with a focus on compounding engineering plastics)

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