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Bringing Eggshell Waste into the Circular Economy - By : Jean-Philippe Leclair, Lucas Hof, Duncan Cree,

Bringing Eggshell Waste into the Circular Economy


This work was done in collaboration with the University of Saskatchewan (Prof. Duncan Cree) and presented in the context of the CSME 2021 International Congress.

Jean-Philippe Leclair
Jean-Philippe Leclair Author profile
Jean-Philippe Leclair is an undergraduate student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at ÉTS. His core interest is sustainable development, and he is motivated to position himself as an actor of the change that he would like to see.

Lucas Hof
Lucas Hof is a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at ÉTS. His research interests include advanced and circular manufacturing, micromachining, mechatronics and electrochemical manufacturing.

Duncan Cree
Duncan Cree Author profile
Duncan Cree is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan. His expertise is in the manufacturing, testing and characterization of engineering materials.

Eggshell waste

Purchased on Istockphoto.com. Copyright.

Reducing Plastics Production with Eggshell Waste

Plastic production has been increasing every year since the 1950s.

Quantifying plastic production

Keeping that in mind, we need to define the concept of circular economy.

According to Ellen MacArthur, from the MacArthur Foundation:

‘’A circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.’’

This diagram from Québec circulaire helps illustrate the concept.

Circular economy

Our work fits well with this approach as we aim to reduce resource consumption, in this case virgin plastic, replacing it in part with waste eggshell powder (i.e. calcium carbonate). At the same time, this contributes to divert waste from landfills by repurposing or giving a new life as the eggshells used are sourced from breaking plants. Breaking plants are industrial facilities where the shell eggs are converted to liquid or further-processed egg products. They typically dispose of their eggshell waste in landfills at a cost to the industry.

How is eggshell waste problematic?

First, several billions of eggs are produced yearly per country.

Egg production Worldwide

In most developed countries, 30% of produced eggs go to egg breaking plants.

  • Most of the eggshell waste around the world ends up in landfills.
  • For example, in the US and Europe, egg breaking plants pay approximately USD $100,000 per year to dispose of eggshells in landfills.
  • This poses an environmental problem as their decomposition produces compounds like ammonia, hydrogen sulphide, and amine releasing high levels of contaminants and odours.
  • Eggshells can also carry pathogens such as E.coli or salmonella.

A review [1] on the production and availability of eggshell waste and its potential as a filler in other fabrication processes—injection molding, hot pressing, compression molding, film casting—was done previously by Prof. Cree and one of his students. All the previous statements are also backed by this review.

Objectives of this Research

Our main goal is to develop a new sustainable and high-performing material for 3D printing that fits within a circular economy, as additive manufacturing is predicted to play an important role in the shift toward a more circular economy, due to its lean (i.e. less waste during manufacturing) and agile nature.

More specifically, in this work, we evaluated the flexural performance and the ductility of PLA/eggshell composite test specimens. In other words, we try using waste to not only reduce waste streams but also to improve PLA ductility.

Preparing and Testing Composite Specimens

First, we will show the material preparation process starting with the filler preparation.

Following is a simplified flowchart of the filler preparation.

Eggshell filler preparation

  • The eggshells are rinsed with hot water to remove any remaining egg white and organic membrane.
  • Then, they are crushed into coarse particles of a few millimeters.
  • Water is then added to form a slurry and the coarse particles are milled into smaller particles.
  • Finally, the powdered particles are dried at about 105 °C for 24 h before being sifted through a 32-micron sieve.

The final product takes the form of a fine white powder as shown in image C.

Here is another flowchart representing the composite material and sample production process.

Composite material production

  • The waste product is the powdered eggshell.
  • It is mixed with PLA pellets to be processed by melt blending to obtain composite pellets.
  • Composite pellets with different weight percentages of filler are produced.
  • These composite pellets are then used to extrude 3D printing filaments.

Here is an image of the equipment that we used to extrude the composite 3D printing filament.

Setup for 3D printing

The unit is a Filabot setup composed of:

  • an extruder to the right
  • a cooling station in the middle
  • a spooling station to the left

A digital measuring device is put in place to ensure the diameter of the filament produced is constant and within specs.

With this filament we can now print composite samples that will be used for the flexure testing.

Here is a brief summary of the printing parameters used to produce the composite samples, as well as a brief summary of the parameters regarding the 3-point bending flexure test.

  • The samples were printed using a Ultimaker 3 3D printer
  • The extruder temperature was set to 200 °C and the printing speed was set at 60 mm/s.
  • The geometry of the samples is as specified by ASTM D 790-17
  • Flexure testing was done using an Instron 1137 machine with a load cell of 10 kN
  • The distance between the supports was 57 mm and the grip displacement rate was 1.5 mm/min

Flexure testing

Comparing Composite Material Properties with Pure PLA

Here are the results of the flexural strength and flexural modulus or flexural stiffness.

Material properties

Material properties

In both graphs, the darker grey columns represent eggshell reinforced samples while lighter grey columns represent limestone reinforced samples.

Also, the red horizontal line represents the performance of pure PLA.

Why Compare Eggshell to Limestone?

Eggshell is ~95% calcium carbonate, limestone is also calcium carbonate, and it is one of the most popular plastic fillers throughout the plastic industry [1]. Therefore, it makes sense to use it as a comparative.

  • In the first graph, where flexural strength is compared, the PLA/eggshell composite samples that performed the best were the ones with 5% filler, exceeding pure PLA samples by ~12%.
  • In the second graph, where flexural modulus is compared, the PLA/eggshell composite samples that performed the best were the ones with 20% filler, exceeding pure PLA samples by ~38%.

As more filler is added, the flexural modulus increases but the flexural strength decreases significantly.

Below are SEM (Scanning Electron Microscopy) images of samples with different weight percentages of eggshell and limestone filler as well as pure PLA.

First, looking at pure PLA, there is very little texture and directional crack branching.

SEM image of pure PLA

Pure PLA

 

With 5% eggshell, there is a very slight difference in texture, but nothing significant. There is in fact good bonding of the filler particles with the matrix.

SEM image of 5% eggshell mixture

5% eggshell

 

With 5% limestone, there is already a marginal increase of textures. Also, dimple-like features with a filler particle at their base can be observed.

SEM image of 5% limestone mixture

5% limestone

 

Finally, in both 20% filler images, there is a significant change in texture with many dimple-like features.

SEM image of 20% eggshell and limestone mixtures

Left : 20% eggshell ; Right : 20% limestone

 

The dimples suggest a more ductile failure mode than in pure PLA samples, which exhibited typical brittle failure characteristics given by its flat, smooth features.

Conclusions

  • Eggshell powder incorporated into 3D printed PLA can improve flexural properties, such as flexural strength and flexural modulus.
  • In comparison to pure PLA, there was an increase of ~12% in flexural strength and ~19% in flexural modulus in testing the samples with 5% eggshell filler content.
  • From experimental results, 5% eggshell filler content was found to be the optimal weight percentage of eggshell powder.
  • As seen previously, when more filler is added, flexural modulus increases but flexural strength decreases significantly.
  • Finally, the SEM observations have shown that eggshell powder in 3D printed PLA has a direct impact on the fractured face texture, suggesting a more ductile failure mode than in pure PLA samples.

Additional Information

For more details on the results presented in this short version, please refer to the original article:

  1. -P. Leclair, N. Borges, D. Cree, and L. A. Hof, “Towards Circular Manufacturing: Repurposing Eggshell Waste As Filler For Poly Lactic Acid Feedstock For 3D Printing,” Progress in Canadian Mechanical Engineering. Volume 4, Jun. 2021, https://doi.org/10.32393/csme.2021.120

Further investigation on the mechanical properties of this new composite material is ongoing and the results will be published soon.

Jean-Philippe Leclair

Author's profile

Jean-Philippe Leclair is an undergraduate student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at ÉTS. His core interest is sustainable development, and he is motivated to position himself as an actor of the change that he would like to see.

Program : Mechanical Engineering 

Research laboratories : DYNAMO – Research Laboratory in Machine, Process and Structural Dynamics  NUMERIX – Organizational Engineering Research Laboratory for the Digital Enterprise  CÉRIÉC – Centre for Intersectoral Study and Research into the Circular Economy  CIRODD- Centre interdisciplinaire de recherche en opérationnalisation du développement durable 

Author profile

Lucas Hof

Author's profile

Lucas Hof is a professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at ÉTS. His research interests include advanced and circular manufacturing, micromachining, mechatronics and electrochemical manufacturing.

Program : Mechanical Engineering 

Research laboratories : DYNAMO – Research Laboratory in Machine, Process and Structural Dynamics  CÉRIÉC – Centre for Intersectoral Study and Research into the Circular Economy  CIRODD- Centre interdisciplinaire de recherche en opérationnalisation du développement durable 

Author profile

Duncan Cree

Author's profile

Duncan Cree is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan. His expertise is in the manufacturing, testing and characterization of engineering materials.

Author profile


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