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  • Heather Cummings

Goodbye Plastic Waste

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

A significant amount of household plastic ends up in landfills each year. This is due in part to our own laziness, but also due to the expensive and labor intensive recycling process. However, the University of Warwick has developed a process which could eliminate this problem.

University of Warwick engineers have invented a process that can manage all plastic waste and can even break some polymers, such as polystyrene, back down to their original monomers (styrene in the case of polystyrene). The process involves using heat in the absence of oxygen to decompose materials. This eliminates the need for plastics sorting and can create products, such as wax that can then be used as a lubricant; original monomers that can be used to make new polystyrene; terephthalic acid which can be reused in PET plastic products, methylmethacrylate that can be used to make acrylic sheets and carbon which can be used as Carbon Black in paint pigments and tires.

The lead researcher from the University of Warwick, Jan Baeyens explained the financial and environmental benefits for a large-scale plant.

“In a year, tankers would take away from each plant over £5 million (US$7.7 million) worth of recycled chemicals and each plant would save £500,000 (US$777,291) a year in land fill taxes alone,” said Baeyens. “As the expected energy costs for each large plant would only be in the region of £50,000 (US$77,729) a year, the system will be commercially very attractive and give a rapid payback on capital and running costs.”

To learn more about this recycling technique visit the University of Warwick website.

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