New Tech Could Help Recycle Plastic Holiday Packaging

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

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Val Away G.
Val G.4 years ago

Bravo to those engineers who came up with this process... :)

KARLOLINA G.4 years ago

It seems that the more I try to recycle the more plastic they come up with. I try my best to be careful of how things are packaged.

Cynthia Jacobs
Cindy J.4 years ago

Awesome!! Hopefully one day soon, there won't be one plastic item that cannot be recycled. That will be excellent!

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle4 years ago

This is very exciting. I've recycled forever -- my Mom and Oma taught us to. But like the author said, much plastic doesn't have the "1" or "2" in the little triangle on the bottom (recyclable). The other many plastics go into the trash, lots of waste and landfill. So this could revolutionize our world -- recycle everything around again.

Petra Luna
Petra Luna4 years ago

Recycling really isn't all that difficult, and no, it doesn't take a whole lot of time. Most communities either have bins to put the recycling in, or you get the blue bags. The item you're tossing is either garbage or recyclable. On garbage day, you take 'em both to the curb. That's it. At apartment buildings, there are spots for you in the main disposal area. It's not that big of deal.

Elise Lanciault-Breton
Elise L.4 years ago

What is hard for families is that they don't have enough time. But I saw a lot of kids loving to recycle and help, they feel good about it, they feel autonomous, which is great.

Plus that: Recycling is giving us a good feeling, that we're doing something good, helping for a better world.

Would you rather give 5 minuts per day to recycle than polluting your world and giving a rotten world to your kids?

Richard P.
Anonymous XX4 years ago

Doug G. - Primarily because business owns our so called "Representatives" and both parties in our two party duopoly system. Having to pay for the disposal of the materials used in products and packaging would hurt their bottom line.

Until we eliminate corporate person-hood, the public will not be able to counter the unlimited spending in politics and brainwashing rhetoric funded by big business.

We all need to push for a constitutional amendment to do so. Add your support by going to and signing the petition.

Doug G.
Doug G.4 years ago

Why wasn't there some forethought given to the potential problems of widespread use of plastics long before they were put into the market and ultimately, the environment?
Rare earths is another example of shortsightedness. Will they ever learn?

Lisa R.
Lisa R.4 years ago

Good to know that progress is being made.

ruth a.
ruth a.4 years ago

I answered no, but I think things are much easier here in Europe.