Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Making plastic less drastic

Tired of sorting through all your plastic to work out what can be recycled and what can't? Ever wondered what does happen to the plastic you do recycle?

It turns out only about 12% of the plastic that is sent to recycling is actually recycled - the rest is too difficult to process, and is burnt, or is sitting undecomposed among the 100s of millions of tons dumped in landfills every year. Worse still, is all the plastic dumped outside of landfills.

University of Warwick Engineering Professor Jan Baeyens, and his team, are developing a process that recycles 100% of the plastic it consumes. Better yet, it truly recycles the plastic, as opposed to the  downstreaming process that currently passes as the standard practice of plastic recycling.

An albatross' diet
With downstreaming, plastics are used to make different products, such as floor tiles, or fabric, or even feedstock! With Baeyens' chemical process, the plastics are broken down into their original components - often even their original monomers - so that they can be used to fulfill the same function over and over again.

So we win at both ends: we don't need to tax our already overburdened non-renewable resources as much to produce the plastic, and we aren't left with an insurmountable pile of garbage once we're done with it. And we no longer have to sort through our plastic to work out what can be recycled and what can't.

To get a better understanding of the process, and to see a short video on it, click here.

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