Technology 3 min read

New Recycling Process Turns Plastic Waste into new Plastic Materials



Researchers at Chalmers Power Central have developed a new recycling process that can turn plastic waste into new plastic materials.

Plastics are the scourge of the Earth.

About eight percent of the world’s oil production is used to make plastics. This results in the sales of nearly a million plastic beverage bottles across the world every minute.

Unfortunately, these plastics don’t break down. Instead, they accumulate in the ecosystem to become a significant environmental problem.

Reports reveal that 40 percent of plastics produced as packaging are used just once and discarded. As a result, almost 18 million pounds of plastic waste flows into the oceans every year from coastal regions.

However, researchers at Chalmers believe that the resilience of plastic could be an asset. The material’s inability to degrade raises the possibility of circular usage.

By experimenting with chemical recovery, the Chalmers team has developed an efficient recycling process to turn used plastics into the new plastic material.

In a statement, professor of Energy Technology at Chalmers, Henrik Thunman, said:

“We should not forget that plastic is a fantastic material – it gives us products that we could otherwise only dream of. The problem is that it is manufactured at such low cost, that it has been cheaper to produce new plastics from oil and fossil gas than from reusing plastic waste.”

So, how does it work?

How the New Recycling Process Works

Currently, the recycling model follows what the researchers described as a “waste hierarchy.” That means experts have to repeatedly degrade plastic to reduce their quality before burning it off for energy recovery.

Meanwhile, the Chalmers method focuses on capturing the carbon atoms from a used plastic to create a new plastic of original quality.

Thurman noted:

“Through finding the right temperature – which is around 850 degrees Celsius – and the right heating rate and residence time, we have been able to demonstrate the proposed method at a scale where we turn 200 kg of plastic waste an hour into a useful gas mixture. That can then be recycled at the molecular level to become new plastic materials of virgin quality.”

According to the researcher, this sort of circular use can uncover the real value of plastics. It could create a market for the collection of the plastics that have already polluted the environment.

The new recycling process has already passed the initial trial stage. Now, the researchers aim to understand the process further and demonstrate its feasibility. With this knowledge, it becomes possible to scale up the recycling to a commercial level.

While we’re still working on an efficient method of recycling plastic products, below’s a quick video of what you can do to minimize the production of plastic waste.

Read More: Nepal is Banning Single-Use Plastics in the Everest

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Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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