Plastics Recycling and Circular Economy

Plastics have become critical to today’s society. From medical equipment to food packaging, they play an essential role in everyday life. The issue of how to manage plastic waste has become prevalent in recent years. Currently in the U.S. and Canada, about 90% of plastic waste ends up in landfills or is incinerated. Part of the problem is that a sustainable technology for effective circular recycling of polymers does not currently exist. Development of a sustainable technology that can return plastic, back to the monomer it was created from, or a high valued chemical product is would be of immense value. To do this cost effectively would be new to the world.
Currently, mechanical recycling is the most practiced solution to recycle plastic waste, though this is only accounts for a very small portion of plastic waste and is only applicable to some plastics. Mechanical recycling also requires that mixed plastic waste be sorted into its pure plastic constituents. Chemical recycling is an alternative technology to mechanical recycling that could potentially deal with mixed plastic waste without separation, which would help meet circular economy targets and provide recyclers with potentially valuable product. It has a higher tolerance for contaminants in the mixed plastic waste than mechanical recycling and, if done in the right way, makes it possible to break down polymers into single monomers.
For the health of the planet, plastic recycling should be a top priority, which is why Process Engineering Consulting maintains a strong expertise in plastic chemical recycling as well as catalysis, chemical process design and techno-economics. This expertise also encompasses processes such as gasification and pyrolysis that are currently attracting significant attention as both appear technically viable for plastic waste reutilization.
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