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Title:
METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR WASHING AND SEPARATING PLASTICS MATERIAL
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2018/115104
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A method for washing and separating pieces of plastics material (P) from contaminating material (C) that also includes metal elements (M), comprises the steps of: supplying, to a washing container (2), a washing fluid (W), having a first specific weight value (γ1), and the pieces of plastics material (P) joined to the contaminating material (C); driving, in said washing container (2), stirring means (3) provided with blades (4) for generating in the washing fluid (W) a turbulent stirring action to remove from the plastics material (P), through mechanical action, the part of contaminating material (C) adhering thereto. The tilt of the blades (4) and the rotation speed (VR) of the stirring means (3) are chosen carefully to generate a thrusting action (FT) upwards so as to maintain in a floating condition the plastics material (P) with a specific weight (γ2) that is greater than the specific weight (γ1) of the fluid (W); the force of the thrusting action (FT) is limited to a value that is such as not to hinder the downward precipitation of the contaminating metal elements (M) that have a further specific weight value (γ3) that is greater than the aforesaid second value (γ2). The plastics material (P) is retained inside the container (2) for sufficient time to obtain a desired degree of purity and decontamination for the plastics material (P), after which it is evacuated by controlled overflow. The heavy contaminating material (C), in particular the metal elements (M) that accumulate on the bottom (6), are periodically evacuated by a device of valve or pump type. The apparatus for implementing the aforesaid method is also disclosed.

Inventors:
PREVIERO, Flavio (Via F.lli Cairoli 17Monza Brianza, Lissone, 20851, IT)
Application Number:
EP2017/083781
Publication Date:
June 28, 2018
Filing Date:
December 20, 2017
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
PREVIERO N. S.R.L. (Monza Brianza, Lissone, 20851, IT)
International Classes:
B03B5/02; B03B5/38; B03B5/40; B03B5/62; B03B11/00; B08B3/10; B29B17/02
Foreign References:
EP2703086A12014-03-05
DE4337206C11995-03-09
US5443652A1995-08-22
DE2804729A11979-08-02
EP0359106A21990-03-21
US2679982A1954-06-01
US3054230A1962-09-18
EP2703086A12014-03-05
DE4337206C11995-03-09
US5443652A1995-08-22
DE2804729A11979-08-02
EP0359106A21990-03-21
US5948276A1999-09-07
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CANDITO, Rocco et al. (LUPPI INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY S.R.L, Via E. De Amicis 25, Milan, 20123, IT)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1. Method for washing and separating pieces of plastics material (P) from contaminating material (C) that also includes metal elements (M), comprising the steps of:

a. Supplying to a washing container (2), through an inlet port (30), a washing fluid (W), having a first specific weight value (γΐ), and the pieces of plastics material (P) with the contaminating material (C);

b. driving, in said washing container (2), stirring means (3) provided with blades (4) for generating in the washing fluid (W) a turbulent stirring action to remove from the plastics material (P), through mechanical action, the part of contaminating material (C) adhering thereto, wherein there is provided

c. setting the tilt of said blades (4) and adjusting the rotation speed (VR) of said stirring means (3) to generate a thrusting action (FT) upwards so as to maintain in a floating condition the plastics material (P) having a second specific weight value (γ2) that is greater than said first value (γΐ) of said fluid (W), and wherein there is provided

d. limiting the force of said thrusting action (FT) to a value that is such as not to hinder the downward precipitation of said contaminating metal elements (M) that have a further specific weight value (γ3) greater than said second value (γ2), and e. driving rotatable control means (9), arranged in a discharge channel (25) diametrically opposite said inlet port (30), for retaining said plastics material (P) inside said washing container (2) for a time that is such as to obtain a desired degree of purity and decontamination for said plastics material (P),

f. evacuating through controlled overflow, through an outlet port (5) bounded by said discharge channel (25) of said washing container (2), an outward flow (Fout) of washing fluid (W) and a quantity of already decontaminated plastics material (Ρ'), wherein said already washed and decontaminated plastics material (Ρ') is conveyed to said outlet port (5) in a controlled manner through the action of said rotatable control means (9), and

g. periodically evacuating, from a bottom (6) of said washing container, the heavy contaminating material (C) - including metal elements (M) - which accumulates on said bottom (6) during washing of the plastics material (P).

2. Method according to claim 1, wherein there is provided configuring said stirring means with at least one stirring device (3) having a rotor-shaft (7) arranged vertically and on which a series of impeller units (8) are mounted one above the other, each impeller unit (8) comprising a group of blades (4), wherein there is provided orienting the blades (4) of an impeller unit (8) with a tilt opposite the blades (4) of an impeller unit (8) placed immediately above or immediately below. 3. Method according to claim 1 or 2, and wherein there is provided orienting the blades (4) of an impeller unit (8) with a first angle of tilt (al) comprised between 5° and 30° with respect to a horizontal plane and the blades (4) of an impeller unit (8) placed immediately above or immediately below with a second angle of tilt (a2) comprised between -5° and -30° with respect to the horizontal plane.

4. Method according to any preceding claim, wherein said stirring means (3) is driven at a rotation speed (VR) comprised between 200 and 400 rpm, so as to reach a value of said thrusting action (FT) such as to maintain in a floating condition bodies of plastics material (P) with a specific weight (γ2) that can be chosen from about 1 kg/dm 3 to about 2 kg/dm 3 , enabling bodies with a specific weight of (γ3) > (γ2) to precipitate to said bottom (6).

5. Method according to any preceding claim, wherein a turbulent stirring action is generated by two stirrers (3A, 3B) located on opposite sides with respect to a longitudinal axis (X) of said washing container (2).

6. Method according to any preceding claim, wherein each rotor shaft (7A, 7B) of said stirring means (3A, 3B) is provided with a number of impeller units (8) ranging from 4 to 12, and in which each impeller unit (8) comprises at least two blades (4).

7. Method according to any preceding claim, wherein said rotating control means (9) is of roller, drum or belt type and is driven at a rotation speed that is such as to retain said plastics material (P) in said washing container (2) for an average dwell time (Tp) that is sufficient to obtain the desired degree of purity and decontamination, and to convey in a controlled manner to said outlet port (5) the already washed and decontaminated plastics (Ρ') independently of the advancement of said outward flow (Fout) of washing fluid (W).

8. Method according to any preceding claim, wherein the dirty pieces of plastics material (P) are supplied continuously to the washing container (2) by an incoming flow (Fin) of washing liquid (W), which includes water, having a flowrate corresponding to the flowrate of the flow of liquid exiting the outlet port (5).

9. Method according to any preceding claim, wherein the lighter contaminants (C) that have been separated from the plastics material (P) are conveyed and evacuated by the outward flow (Fout) of washing fluid (W), and the heavier contaminating materials (C) having a higher specific weight (γ3), including the metal elements (M), which decant on said bottom (6), are removed through a valve or pump evacuation device (11).

10. Apparatus for washing and separating pieces of plastics material (P) from contaminating material (C) that also includes metal elements (M), comprising:

a washing container (2) suitable for receiving and containing a washing fluid (W), having a first specific weight value (γΐ), and the pieces of plastics material (P) with the contaminating material (C);

supplying means (12) suitable for supplying, to said washing container (2), through an inlet port (30), an incoming flow (Fin) of said washing fluid (W) and the plastics material (P) to be decontaminated,

stirring means (3) provided with blades (4) arranged for generating in the washing fluid (W) a turbulent stirring action to remove from the plastics (P), through mechanical action, the part of contaminating material (C) adhering thereto,

- said blades (4) being oriented for impressing on said plastics (P) an upward hydrodynamic thrust,

an outlet port (5), bounded by a discharge channel (25) diametrically opposite said inlet port (30), for evacuating through overflow the processed plastics material (Ρ') and an outward flow (Fout) of said washing fluid (W) with a fraction of separate contaminants (C),

rotatable control means (9), arranged in said discharge channel (25) and configured for retaining, for a given time, said plastics material (P) in said washing container (2) and advancing in a controlled manner said quantity of plastics (Ρ') to said outlet port (5),

an evacuation device (11) configured for removing periodically the heavy contaminating material (C), including metal elements (M), that accumulates on a bottom (6) of said washing container (2),

- a control unit (CU) programmed for adjusting the rotation speed (VR) of said stirring means (3) to generate a thrusting action (FT) upwards so as to maintain in a floating condition the plastics material (P) having a second specific weight value (γ2) that is greater than said first value (γΐ) of said fluid (W),

said control unit (CU) being programmed to limit the force of said thrusting action (FT) to a value that is such as not to hinder precipitation downwards of said metal elements (M) and of other contaminants (C) having a further specific weight value (γ3) greater than said second value (γ2).

11. Apparatus according to claim 10, wherein said stirring means comprises at least one stirring device (3 A; 3B) driven by variable speed motor means (18), each stirring device (3A; 3B) having a rotor-shaft (7) arranged vertically and on which a series of impeller units (8) are mounted on one another, each impeller unit (8) comprising a group of blades (4) that are distributed equally angularly, in which the blades (4) of an impeller unit (8) are tilted opposite the blades (4) of an impeller unit (8) placed immediately above or immediately below.

12. Apparatus according to claim 10 or 11, wherein the blades (4) of a first group of impeller units (8) are tilted by a first angle of incidence (al) comprised between 5° and 30° with respect to a horizontal plane, and the blades (4) of a second group of impeller units (8) are tilted by a second angle of incidence (a2) comprised between -

5° and -30° with respect to the horizontal plane, and wherein said stirring means (3) is configured for moving at a rotation speed (VR) comprised between 200 and 400 rpm.

13. Apparatus according to any one of claims 10 to 12, wherein said stirring means (3) comprises two stirrers (3A, 3B) having respective rotor-shafts (7) extending vertically and located on opposite sides with respect to a longitudinal axis (X) of said washing container (2).

14. Apparatus according to any one of claims 10 to 13, wherein each rotor shaft (7A, 7B) of said stirring means (3A, 3B) comprises from 4 to 12 impeller units (8), and wherein each impeller unit (8) comprises at least two blades (4), in particular three blades (4).

15. Apparatus according to any one of claims 10 to 14, wherein said rotatable control means (9) is of the roller or drum or belt type and is driven by further variable speed motor means (19) and wherein said evacuation device (11) for metals (M) comprises a valve or pump device.

Description:
METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR WASHING AND SEPARATING PLASTICS MATERIAL

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a method and an apparatus for washing and separating plastics material - coming from domestic and/or industrial waste milled or reduced into pieces - from contaminants of various types, especially from contaminating elements of metal type.

STATE OF THE ART

As known, the plastics material that comes from solid urban and industrial waste is subjected to various treatments that include pre-washing, washing, milling into pieces of small dimensions and one or more subsequent more accurate washing steps. Post-consumption plastics material includes bottles, containers, other objects, and comprises not only PET (polyethylene terephthalate) but also P.E (polyethylene), P.V.C (polyvinyl chloride), P.P. (polypropylene), P.S. (polystyrene) and other plastics materials.

In order for such plastics materials to be able to be reused successfully as regenerated material, it is necessary for them to undergo careful decontamination with elimination of all the undesirable substances coupled therewith originally or which inevitably get attached thereto during the process of collection from urban or industrial sites as far as the plastics recycling plants.

Apparatuses for washing plastics materials are known from EP2703086, DE4337206, US5443652, DE2804729 and EP0359106. If the material to be treated consists, for example, of bottles and/or containers made of plastics material, there is a first pre-washing step in equipment provided with rotating cylinders in which the bottles and/or containers are subjected to a pre- washing action to eliminate the coarser contamination, such as labels, and part of the dirt that has adhered on the bottles during collection and storage, etc. The containers/bottles are then sent to a milling mill to be reduced to small sized pieces. The milled plastics material is then transferred to other washing apparatuses, such as centrifugal separating units in which the pieces material remains for the time required to complete the washing and rinsing operations and avoid contaminating residues persisting that would otherwise compromise the subsequent use of the recovered material.

One particularly felt, serious and difficult problem to be addressed is the undesired presence of metal elements or fragments that are unfortunately found in the plastics material to be treated and which come, for example, from daily consumer goods such as small plastics material bottles such as spray bottles, dispensing/dosing caps, atomising devices: inside such objects there are in fact metal springs, balls of metal and/or other metal pieces that inevitably advance, in the recycling process, together with the plastics material component.

It should be added that the metal elements are found not only on the daily consumer goods that have just been mentioned but also in a whole series of types of waste that originate from sectors such as, for example, the car industry. All the types of refuse classified as WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment) must also be considered and which comprise a vast range of plastics materials from which it is necessary to separate copper, iron, steel, aluminium, glass, silver, lead, etc.

In substance, the plastics material from which it is necessary to separate the metals comprises not only the PET, PS, PE, PVC, PP, PS cited above, but also ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene), PC (polycarbonate), PMMA (poly(methyl methacrylate), PA (polyamide), SAN (styrene acrylonitrile resin ), and many other plastics materials. In some types of known plant, such as for example the plant disclosed in US5948276, hydrocyclone units are provided downstream of which centrifugal separating units can be provided. In hydrocyclone units, the "cyclone" effect generated by the vortex causes small pieces of plastics material to separate from the heavy contaminant, which drops by gravity to the bottom of the tank, from which it is periodically removed.

The vortex flow of the washing fluid forces the pieces of plastics material to reascend to the upper edge of the tank and exit with the washing fluid through simple overflowing to then be sent to the centrifugal unit further downstream.

The vortex motion of the fluid in the hydrocyclone unit, if on the one side it tends to separate the fraction of lighter plastics materials from the heavier materials by exploiting the different degrees of floating, it is nevertheless not satisfactorily effective in the action of washing the plastics material and does not achieve complete detachment of the contaminating parts adhering to the plastic. In other words, the bland washing action caused by a simple vortex motion does not enable the contaminant to be separated from the pieces of plastics material.

In other words, there is no mechanical action to detach the contaminants sticking to the pieces of plastics material. Thus once again, it is necessary to resort to a further washing unit, in this case, the centrifugal unit, arranged in series and further downstream to treat all the product that has been processed by the stirrer and by the hydrocyclone unit. This plant configuration, in addition to being structurally and functionally more complex to make and managed, does not even enable the plastics material to be processed satisfactorily and is often not able to separate effectively from the plastics the metal fraction, an even minimal presence of which is extremely deleterious inasmuch as it drastically reduces the quality of the material to be recovered.

There thus still remains a great need to have available a system that is able to overcome the drawbacks and limits of known washing and separating apparatuses.

OBJECTS OF THE INVENTION

One object of the present invention is to improve current washing and separating systems for plastics materials. Another object is to provide a method and an apparatus that enable high levels of efficacy to be achieved in the process of washing plastics materials and separating from the contaminants, with particular reference to contaminants of metal type.

Another object is to provide a method and an apparatus that are very simple respectively from the functional and structural point of view but at the same time equally efficient and able to provide qualitatively high levels of the recovered product that are greater than with traditional systems, ensuring at the same time limited consumption of washing fluid and reduced energy output.

SHORT DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

These and further objects and advantages can be achieved by a method according to claim 1, and a washing and separating apparatus for plastics materials according to claim 10.

SHORT DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS These and further features and advantages of the washing and separating method and apparatus will be clearer from the following description, with reference to the drawings, in which:

Figures 1 and 2 are two different views of a washing and separating apparatus according to the present invention;

Figure 3 is a longitudinal section along the line III- ΠΙ in figure 2;

Figure 4 is an enlarged detail in figure 3;

Figure 5 is a longitudinal section along the line V- V in Figure 3;

Figure 6 is a top view of the apparatus;

Figure 7 is a block diagram of the washing and separating method according to the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION With reference to the attached Figures, a washing and separating apparatus 1 for plastics materials P coming from prewashing and milling of various post- consumption objects is disclosed. The plastics material P, before being introduced into the apparatus 1, is reduced into small sized pieces with dimensions from a few mm to a few cm; the method and the apparatus 1 disclosed below have the purpose of washing and separating from the metal and non-metal contaminants the aforesaid plastics material reduced into small pieces.

The apparatus 1 comprises a washing container 2 arranged for receiving, from an inlet port 30, by suitable supplying means 12, an entering flow Fj n of a washing fluid W, in particular water with possible washing additives, and the pieces of plastics material P to which the contaminating material C to be eliminated adheres.

An outlet port 5 is provided through which an outward flow F out of washing fluid W exits by overflow with processed, i.e. washed, plastics material P', from which the contaminants C have been detached through mechanical action.

The outlet port 5 is bounded by a discharge channel 25 that protrudes transversely outwards from a lateral wall of the washing container 2. The discharge channel 25 is diametrically opposite the inlet port 30 for supplying the plastics material P and the washing fluid W.

Therefore, the apparatus 1 comprises a single washing container 2, provided with an inlet port 30 and an outlet port 5 that are arranged diametrically opposite to one other. The apparatus 1, including such a single washing container 2, is therefore configured for containing in a single washing chamber (delimited by the washing container 2) the washing fluid W and plastics material P to be treated.

The discharge channel 25 is bounded laterally by two side walls 26 and below by a ramp wall 27 that protrudes from a first height from the side wall of the container 2, extending in a tilted manner upwards as far as a second higher height.

The outer wall that bounds laterally the washing container 2 is cylindrical in shape. However such an outer wall may have another suitable shape. The outer diameter of the washing container 2 can vary, by way of non-limiting example, from 1200 mm to 2200 mm according to need. The container 2 is bounded below by a bottom 6 wall. The bottom 6 wall is inwardly, i.e. upwardly, concave, and this enables the heavier contaminating bodies C, in particular metal elements M, to accumulate, once they have precipitated because of the specific weight thereof, in a localized manner to the central zone of the bottom 6, to be able to be moved easily periodically. For this purpose, an evacuating device 11 is provided for the contaminating products that are deposited on the bottom 6, in particular the metal elements M of valve or pump type.

In particular, a dual valve system 11 can be provided, i.e. a pair of valves (for example of the solenoid valve type) arranged in a conduit, one below the other and each driven by its own actuator.

The selective opening and closing of the two valves enables the heavy sediments to be discharged periodically that have accumulated on the bottom 6, minimizing the exit of the washing fluid W.

Inside the washing container 2, stirring means 3 is provided that is fitted with blades 4 arranged for generating in the washing fluid W a turbulent stirring action to remove from the plastics material P, through mechanical action, the contaminating material C adhering thereto.

In a first embodiment, the stirring means comprises a single stirrer 3. In another embodiment, shown in the attached Figures, the stirring means comprises two distinct stirrers 3A, and 3B, arranged on opposite sides to a longitudinal axis X of the washing container 2. In particular, as visible in Figure 6, the axes of the rotor shafts 7 A, and 7B, lie on a vertical plane that is placed orthogonally to a median plane that traverses longitudinally the discharge channel 25, passing through the inlet 30 opening. The impeller units 8 have diameters D G comprised between 450 and 650 mm. The rotor shafts 7A and/or 7B have rotation axes positioned in such a manner that during the circular trajectory the blades 4 remain at a minimum distance from the lateral wall of the washing container 2. This distance is correlated with the diameter Do of the impeller units 8 and can vary from 0.1 to 0.4 times this diameter D G. By way of example, the minimum distance "d" between the circular trajectory plotted by the blades and the lateral inner surface of the container 2 can vary from about 45 mm to about 260 mm, depending on the value of the aforesaid diameter Do. The axes of the rotor shafts 7A, and 7B are from about 350 to about 550 mm from the central longitudinal axis X, according to the diameter of the washing container 2 and of the impeller units 8.

Each stirrer 3 comprises a rotor shaft 7 arranged vertically and driven by a variable speed motor 18, such as an electric motor of inverter type.

From numerous and intense experimental tests, it was found that at a rotation speed V R of the stirring means 3 comprised between 200 and 400 rpm, optimum efficacy levels are obtained in the washing and separating process. The rotations of the two stirrers 3 A, 3B can also have two different speeds and opposite directions. By intervening suitably on the rotation speed values V R , the thrust force can be set that is suitable for floating plastics materials with a specific weight that is greater than or the same as 1 kg/dm 3 up to 2 kg/dm 3. A control unit CU is provided that on the basis of specific process needs, the properties of the materials P to be processed, of the contaminants C and of the washing fluid W, adjusts in an optimum manner the rotation speed V R including the one or more stirrers 3. On each stirrer rotor shaft 7 a series of impeller units 8 is mounted, which are placed on top of one another, and in a number varying from 4 to 12, according to the geometric dimensions of the apparatus 1 and/or of specific process needs. Each impeller unit 8 comprises at least two blades 4, in particular, in the embodiments shown in the Figures, for each impeller unit 8 three blades 4 are provided that are angularly equidistant and protrude transversely from the respective rotor shaft 7. The number of the blades 4 can anyway be varied according to the needs of the process, provided that they are suitable for achieving the effects disclosed in the following.

In each single impeller unit 8, the blades 4 are oriented in an identical manner to one another. Nevertheless, the orientation of the blades of an impeller unit 8 is opposite the orientation of the adjacent impeller unit 8 placed immediately above or below. In other words, the tilts, or orientations, of the blades 4 vary reciprocally from one impeller unit 8 to the next. Then considering the rotation direction of the stirrer 3, there is thus a series of blades 4 tilted upwards, and a series of blades tilted downwards.

The groups of blades 4 are oriented with angles of tilt that are such as to obtain the desired effect of generating in the fluid W a stirring and turbulence action that shakes the pieces of plastics material P, thus effectively promoting the detaching from the latter of the contaminating bodies C, and at the same time have the effect of imposing on the plastics material P an upward hydrodynamic thrust. More precisely, with reference to Figures 3 and 4, the blades 4 of a first group of impeller units 8 are tilted by a first angle of tilt al comprised between 5° and 30° with respect to a horizontal plane, and the blades 4 of a second group of impeller units 8 are tilted by a second angle of tilt a2 comprised between -5° and -30° with respect to the horizontal plane.

The apparatus 1 thus configured enables not only plastics materials with very low specific weight but also plastics materials that have specific weight γ2 that is greater than the specific weight γΐ of the washing fluid W to be maintained in a floating condition.

With angles of tilt al, a2 values chosen from the aforesaid intervals, in combination with the rotation speed SVR of the stirring means 3 comprised between 200 and 400 rpm, and the dimensional features and structural configuration that are disclosed above, excellent performance is obtained in terms of efficacy in the mechanical action of washing and in the floating action.

The apparatus 1 comprises rotating control means 9 configured for retaining, for a given time, the plastics material P in the washing container 2, preventing the plastics material P, once it has been supplied to the washing container 2, from exiting immediately without first undergoing the washing process through mechanical stirring. The rotating means 9 rotates at a speed that is suitably adjusted by the control unit CU to advance in a controlled manner the quantity of processed plastics material P' to the discharge channel 25 and then to the outlet port 5.

The rotating control means 9 is of roller or drum type with a horizontal axis, or belt type, and is driven by further variable speed motor means 19, such as an electric motor of inverter type. The rotating means 9, for example the roller element 9, extends between the two side walls 26 of the discharge channel 25 and above the ramp wall 27 of this channel. The rotatable control element 9 comprises a rotating shaft 28 from which there protrude radially, and according to axial planes, baffles 29 that are suitable for interacting with the plastics material P. The rotatable element 9 is positioned in height with respect to the ramp wall 27 in such a manner that the baffles 29 touch or partially penetrate the washing fluid W below the free surface L, to intercept the pieces of plastics material P.

The control unit CU is configured for rotating the roller element 9 at a speed that is such as to impose on the plastics material P to remain in the washing container 2 for a given average dwell time that is sufficient to obtain the desired degree of purity and decontamination for the plastics material P.

As indicated above, the control unit CU is programmed for adjusting the rotation speed V R of the stirring means 3A, 3B to generate a thrusting action F T upwards so as to maintain in a floating condition the plastics material P with a specific weight that is greater than that of the washing fluid W. In particular, if the fluid W substantially comprises water, with a specific weight γΐ of lkg/dm , the appropriate rotation speed of the stirring means 3, combined with a specific orientation of the blades 4 as disclosed above, have the effect of pushing upwards in a floating condition also the plastics materials such as PET (specific weight γ2 equal to 1.4 kg/dm ), PVC (γ2

3 3

equal to 1.3 kg/dm ), nylon (γ2 equal to 1.13 kg/dm ), polystyrene (γ2 equal to 1.04 kg/dm ) etc. At the same time, the rotation speed VR of the stirring means 3 must be such that the aforesaid thrusting action F T is limited to a value that is such as not to hinder the downward precipitation of the heavy contaminants, and in particular of the harmful metal elements M, which have greater specific weight γ3 values, which range from values hardly greater than 2 kg/dm (e.g. aluminium), to higher values. In other words, the upward floating thrust imposed by the blades 4 of the stirrers 3, has to be sufficiently high so that, together with the hydrostatic thrust - which is on its own insufficient to overcome the weight force acting on the heavy plastics pieces - it helps the latter to reascend, remaining in a floating condition near the free surface L. At the same time, however, the upward thrusting action must not exceed a certain value so as not to prevent undesired heavier bodies such as metals from precipitating to the bottom 6.

With the help of the block diagram in figure 7, the washing and separating method according to the invention is disclosed, which is implemented by the washing and separating apparatus 1 that has just been disclosed.

The plastics material P coming from the pre-washing and milling of post- consumption plastics waste, reduced into small pieces (dimensions from a few mm to a few cm) and containing contaminants C, is loaded together with an entering flow F in of washing fluid W, such as water with possible additives, inside the washing container 2 (block S I). The block S2 shows the operation of setting the rotation speed/s of the stirring means 3A and/or 3B, and the preliminary step of choosing appropriate angles (of tilt) a 1-2 of the blades 4. The step then occurs of driving the stirrers 3 (block S3) that perform the turbulent stirring action to rub the plastics material P vigorously and detach and separate mechanically the contaminating material C from the plastics material P. The stirrers 3, in addition to stirring the plastics material P mechanically, induce the plastics material P to a floating condition whilst they allow the heavier contaminants C including metals M (block S4) to precipitate.

During the process, the step (block S5) of retaining, by rotating control means 9, the plastics material P in the container 2 is provided for a suitable time, and the subsequent controlled release is provided, with resulting evacuation by overflow of the decontaminated plastics material P' together with an outward flow F in of fluid W (block S6). The entering Fj n and exiting F out flows are adjustable according to the degree of "refresh" desired for the washing fluid W inside the washing container 2. The correct degree of "refresh" is determined by taking account of both the degree of purity and decontamination intended and the specific consumption saving requirements to be met.

The speed of the rotating control means 9 can be adjusted according to the flowrates of entering/exiting fluid and of the degree of purity that it is desired to obtain for the processed plastics material P. In case of operation with a great exchange of washing fluid W, thus with great inflow and outflow flowrates and a strong overflow effect, the rotating control means 9 for retaining and controlled conveying acts to slow the flow of exiting plastics material with respect to the outward flow of fluid W, contrasting the dragging hydrodynamic action to the outlet port 5 and gradually releasing the plastics material P to the outlet port 5.

In the event of operation with reduced inflow and outflow of the fluid W, and thus a smaller overflow and dragging effect, the rotating control means 9 performs a dragging effect that enables the processed plastics material P' to advance to the outlet port 5.

During washing, the heavy contaminating bodies drop by gravity and accumulate (block S7) on the bottom 6 of the container 2, from which they can be periodically evacuated by driving the relative valve device 11 (block S8).

From what has been disclosed and shown in the drawings, it is clear that the washing and separating method and apparatus according to the invention successfully achieve the set objects.

The method and the apparatus disclosed above enable high levels of purity to be obtained in the recovered plastics material in reduced time, owing to the immediate continuous removal of the contaminants from the washing container 2. Owing to the dual function of mechanical stirring and floating thrust performed by the stirrers 3, with a simple but effective solution, optimum separation of the contaminants from the plastics materials P is obtained, above all effective removal of the metals from the plastics material to be recovered. The results obtained are distinctly better than with traditional apparatus, in particular with respect to hydrocyclone systems that, not being able to perform a mechanical turbulence and stirring action in the fluid, are ineffective in the operation of detaching the dirt from the pieces of plastics material to which it sticks.

The object is thus achieved of providing a solution that is a functionally and constructionally simple that is nevertheless able to reduce the general process cost and ensure very high efficiency in separating the contaminants from the plastics materials to be recycled.

It should be noted that thanks to the presence of a single washing and separating chamber, delimited by the single washing container 2, a remarkable structural simplicity is achieved while at the same time excellent results are obtained from the point of view of the effectiveness and speed of the washing and separation process.

It is understood that what has been said and shown with reference to the attached drawings has been said merely by way of example of the general features of the method and of the washing and separating apparatus; thus other modifications or variations can be made to the method, to the entire apparatus, or parts thereof, whilst remaining within the scope of the claims. In particular, the geometric conformation, dimensions, positions and materials that make up one or more parts of the washing apparatus can be chosen and/or optimized on the basis of specific use needs and materials to be processed.