Chances are at least one of the presents you unwrapped today came in a hard-to-recycle plastic package.
Living without plastic is difficult for most families, and it takes a great deal of time to separate plastic packaging for recycling. Even when people take the tine to separate, only 12 percent of plastic waste is truly recycled because it’s made with more than one type of plastic, which makes it difficult to process.
If you hate the idea of tossing it in the waste bin, you’ll be happy to know that University of Warwick engineers have come up with a simple process that can cope with every piece of plastic waste and can even break some polymers such as polystyrene – back down to its original monomers (styrene in the case of polysterene).
Tests have shown that the researchers have been able to literally shovel in to such a reactor a wide range of mixed plastics which can then be reduced down to useful products many of which can then be retrieved by simple distillation.
This research could have a significant impact on the budgets of local authorities and help protect the environment from the consequences of our plastic addiction.
Engineers are now working with the University’s technology transfer arm, Warwick Ventures, who expect that their work will be of great interest to local authorities and waste disposal companies who could use the technology to create large scale reactor units that would produce tanker loads of reusable material.
Image Credit: Flickr - katerha