4 June 2024

NUREL, part of the SAMCA Group and an integrated producer of synthetic nylon fibres, technical polymers, and biopolymers, received ISCC certification for its mechanical recycling process and the manufacture of polyamides (PA) and a variety of polymer-based products.  

At the company’s headquarters in Zaragoza, Spain, NUREL undertakes polymerisation, compounding and spinning activities with cutting-edge technology. To transition to a more sustainable business and lower the environmental impact of its operation and products, the company has committed to increasing the use of ISCC certified non-conventional materials and to mechanically recycle production waste on-site. 

ISCC, a leading international certification system, certifies fully traceable and more sustainable, deforestation-free and climate-friendly supply chains. A system dedicated to the circular economy and bioeconomy, ISCC PLUS certifies non-conventional feedstock*, chain of custody options, as well as mechanical and chemical recycling processes. “With our ISCC PLUS certification, we provide a robust and credible system we have closely developed with numerous stakeholders. It provides companies aiming to be certified a range of certification options, from a single source. Thus, we are pleased to see that NUREL has opted for our ISCC PLUS certification and profits from our robust and credible system”, states Sina Tischbierek, System Manager at ISCC.

Silvia Catalán, Sustainability Manager at NUREL: ”We have decided to apply for ISCC PLUS certification, for the material we source, the chain of custody option we use and our mechanical recycling process. With ISCC certified materials and procedures, we can reduce the environmental impact of our production and make credible claims towards our customers. Their certification system covers a wide range of materials and processes. This has been ideal for us. Combined with their support and expertise in the field, we were convinced that ISCC is the right third-party certification system to choose.”

Certified materials

NUREL sources ISCC certified caprolactam made from pre- and post-consumer residues or biomass. This and other certified materials sourced, are used for the manufacture of polyamide (PA), copolymers, plastic compounds and plastic yarn at the company’s production site in Zaragoza. Depending on the application the certified materials are used for, they are mixed with virgin materials to achieve the respective qualities and target volumes. 

Recycled pellet

Once the certified materials are mixed with non-certified materials, it is impossible to physically segregate them. Therefore, NUREL applies the mass balance approach. Mass balance provides a methodology that allows manufacturers to track the certified materials as they move along the value chain and attribute certified inputs to outputs by segregated bookkeeping. This verified accounting method certifies that the certified feedstock that has replaced virgin fossil-based raw materials at the beginning of the supply chain, can be attributed to the product-to-be-sold while ensuring that input and output are balanced.

Catalán explains: ”We buy ISCC certified caprolactam and feed it into our production plant. In the end, we attribute 100% of certified caprolactam to our polyamide 6, which serves as a basis for our PA6 yarn or our PA6 based compounds. Finally, our certified products are sold to a customer, who can now make a better-informed purchasing decision.”

Mechanical recycling

In its ambition to transition to more sustainable business practices and lead by example, NUREL aims to improve resource efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and waste. To date, NUREL already recycles its production waste on-site through a mechanical recycling process that preserves the material’s molecular structure and sorts waste by material type and colour. NUREL for instance, sorts post-industrial and post-consumer waste into high-purity fractions of PA waste. The input material undergoes multiple steps: in a first step, contaminants and unwanted materials are removed from the waste stream. Depending on the contamination level and purity requirements, the materials might pass through a second sorting process. The pure PA waste fraction is then shredded into smaller material fractions. Afterwards, the materials are pelletised and turned into recycled polyamide that can be directly sold or used as base polymer for new high-quality compounds. 

Silvia Catalán adds: “In addition to recycling PA waste generated in the production process, we also offer the possibility to collect post-industrial waste from our customers, Thanks to our know-how and experience in the textile sector, we are able to recycle textiles containing nylon and elastane. We use a special thermo-mechanical recycling technology that enables us to turn waste into engineering polymers for higher applications.”

NUREL recycles more than 1000 tons of post-industrial polyamide waste per year, resulting in more than 1000 tons of recycled materials. With its mechanical recycling process, NUREL contributes to maximising the materials lifecycle, reducing waste generation, CO₂ emissions and water consumption. In the future, the company targets to extend its mechanical recycling operation and additionally process waste generated by the plastics industry and community. 

Sina Tischbierek explains: “Mechanical recycling provides vast opportunities for the circular economy. For us, mechanical recycling should be the first go-to-option when it comes to recycling. So, we are delighted that NUREL is among the companies embracing mechanical recycling with the ISCC PLUS certificate.”Thanks to the ISCC certification, they can demonstrate their sustainability commitment and provide greater transparency to the supply chain and their customers.

Thanks to the ISCC certification, they can demonstrate their sustainability commitment and provide greater transparency to the supply chain and their customers. 

*sustainable agricultural biomass, biogenic waste and residues, non-biological renewable materials and carbon-based materials.