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Chemical Recycling of Plastic Waste

Recent regulations in Europe and elsewhere are putting pressure on companies to increase the percentage of recycled plastic content in their end products. However, the recycle stream is often contaminated or contains mixed plastic materials, making it difficult to close the loop using conventional mechanical recycling. The good news is that a variety of chemical recycling technologies are emerging that can overcome this challenge. They complement mechanical recycling to create the possibility of a truly circular plastic economy.

In this issue of your Ubuntoo digest, we spotlight chemical recycling technologies that address the problem of plastic waste. Just use your Ubuntoo login to browse our solutions by entering keywords into the search bar or click on the links below.


Chemical Recycling Technologies 

Any plastic recycling process that changes the molecular composition of the recycle stream to produce usable feedstock can be called chemical recycling. The range of technologies is more like a continuum - at one end they eliminate impurities to recover virgin quality polymers, in between are those that break down polymers to their individual monomers, and at the other end are processes that convert waste plastics into base hydrocarbons or petrochemicals that can be used as fuels or reconstituted into new plastics.

There is no one size fits all solution, and each one has its pros and cons depending on the end-use and local techno-commercial considerations. At Ubuntoo, we feature a wide range of chemical recycling solutions. Here is a sample of technologies that you can find on our solutions database.

  1. Purification technologies: A Canadian company has developed a breakthrough purification technology for polystyrene. An Italian company converts waste nylon from carpets and fishing nets back into virgin quality nylon.
  2. Solvent-based recycling:  A German company manufactures high-quality plastics from waste using proprietary solvent-based technology.
  3. Pyrolysis: Although this is an established technology, there are new and novel approaches to improve the efficiency of pyrolysis when applied to plastic waste recycling. Recycling Technologies transforms residual plastic waste into valuable wax and petrochemical feed stock. Anellotech is exploring feeding plastic waste instead of woody biomass into their BioCAT technology to make aromatic chemicals suitable for plastics.
  4. Depolymerization: In this process, waste plastics are broken down into their individual monomers to be reconstituted into new materials. A Swiss company has invented a new process to depolymerize PET bottles/food containers using microwave technology. Loop™ depolymerization technology up-cycles the highest purity plastic from waste plastic feed stocks such as polyester fibers from carpets and clothing, colored plastic and opaque plastic.
  5. Gasification: An Indian startup uses gasolysis to convert mixed plastic waste into polyfuel. DMG® Technology recovers unrecyclable plastic, end-of-life tyres and other waste streams through small scale gasification into an energy rich clean syngas.


For all the innovators and entrepreneurs out there, this is your last chance to apply for the 2019 Plastic Innovation Challenge by The Kloster Forum and Think Beyond Plastics. Entries are accepted only till April 30.

Think Beyond Plastic is also accepting applications for its 2019 Accelerator class.

Closed Loop Partners has come out with an excellent report that explores a variety of technologies to recycle plastics. It profiles 60 companies around the world and provides hope that the future of plastic recycling is bright. You can download the report for free from their website by clicking this link -  Accelerating Circular Supply Chains for Plastics."

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“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, 

you’re at the beginning of something else.”  – Fred Rogers, Television Personality

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Peter & Venky

April 15, 2019
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