The new life of hard-to-recycle plastics

drupa Redaktion

Only one third of the produced plastics can be recycled every year. A few innovative groups of scientists have just searched for a way, which is tackling exactly that challenge of hard-to-recycle plastic.

60 mio. tons of plastics are produced per year worldwide. But only 30% of it gets recycled. The other 70% are ending up at landfills and in our environment. That makes plastic waste to one of our leading environmental concerns. But why is the recycling rate of plastics so small? The reason is that most products made of plastic contain different plastics. The example of food packaging illustrates that very well. Especially fresh food such as meat or dairy products often needs to be protected by various layers such as lids, films or trays. But different plastics need to be separated before processing – and that is very time consuming and costing. So in the end these products mostly don’t get recycled due to several reasons.
This is why new project named MultiCycle has brought up a team lead by Dr. Elodie Bugnicurt from Barcelona, Spain, is aiming to scale up a patented process named CreaSolv. This process is supposed to give multi layered packaging a new life. The formula is solvent based, so the different types of plastics and fibers are extracted by dissolving them in a solution. After that the polymers are recovered from the solution in a slid form and reshaped. Usually the plastic degrades when processing it, but that is not the case with CreaSolv, as the final recycled plastic is of high quality and the process is more efficient. “The key is to recover polymers instead of monomers, so you don’t have to use energy for polymerizing it again.”, said Dr. Bugnicurt. But still, the main challenge is to process waste made up complex mixtures of plastics. But the team members also have developed a tool to monitor the composition of plastic waste, in order to optimize the recycling process, which is a much more sustainable solution.

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