Scientists at the University of Warwick develop a better way to recycle all plastic

Scientists at the University of Warwick have developed a technique that will recycle all plastics including polystyrene.  In many municipalities people sort their garbage into recyclable and non recyclable types of plastic.  Once Warwick’s new method becomes implemented world wide, that sorting can cease. 

The technique used is called “pyrolysis (using heat in the absence of oxygen to decompose of[sic] materials)”.  The scientists created a unit that “used pyrolysis…in a ‘fluidized bed’ reactor”.  Mixed plastics of all types were tossed into the reactor and many were reduced down to building blocks that could be recycled into new materials.
The products the Warwick team have been able to reclaim from the plastic mix include: wax that can then be used as a lubricant; original monomers such as styrene that can be used to make new polystyrene; terephthalic acid which can be reused in PET plastic products, methylmetacrylate that can be used to make acrylic sheets, carbon which can be used as Carbon Black in paint pigments and tyres, and even the char left at the end of some of the reactions can be sold to use as activated carbon at a value of at least £400 a tonne.
That would be $627.76 per ton here in the US.  Activated carbon is just one of the many saleable byproducts of the process.  All told the scientists expect $7.85 million dollars of recycled materials to be carted away by tankers to be used in new products.  Those figures would be based on municipalities building a large scale plant that can process 10,000 tons per year.

Besides the money that could be made from the sale of the recyclable liquids and solids from the plant there are also potential savings.  In Britain the researchers estimated a savings of £500,000  a year from reduced landfill taxes.

Considering that only 12 percent of plastic waste is currently recycled, using the new technique from the University of Warwick would mean a huge reduction in plastic waste that winds up in local landfills.  That along with the money that could be made should make the process “attractive” to municipalities.
Video of Jan Baeyens talking about the new technique can be found here.

Photo of the lead researcher on the project, University of Warwick Engineering Professor Jan Baeyens courtesy of the University of Warwick.[source]


Vincent2012 said...

As well as damaging coasts and killing marine life who mistake the plastic for food, contaminants in the water, which attach to the plastic debris, are transporting waste chemicals across the world's oceans.

Plastic Pyrolysis Reactor

Vincent2012 said...

Biological intervention to restore the ocean environment, otherwise known as bioremediation, is a relatively new field and would require careful assessment of any potential consequences.

Plastic Pyrolysis Reactor

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