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Advancements in Plastic Recycling: PureCycle's Plastic End-Of-Life Challenge

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Advancements in plastic recycling are currently in the works, with the aim to create an “end-of-life” plastic, meaning that plastic waste will be a thing of the past.

 

Plastic is one of the most troubling and urgent environmental problems on our planet, with less than 10% of plastic we use ending up in recycling. The question is what is being done about it?

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John Layman (head of material science at Procter & Gamble) has developed a process, which allows all odors, contaminants and colours to be removed from polypropylene plastic waste, to produce a “virgin-like” resin. This product can then be given a second life…and so the cycle continues without the plastic ever entering landfill.

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PET and HDPE are currently the only two plastics that are economically viable for recyclers. Polypropylene is the second most used plastic globally, however only one percent gets recycled. It can be found in bottle tops, carpets, luggage, phones and in supermarkets, but currently the recycling process of polypropylene is not profitable enough for recyclers to take interest. Why? The problem is that it carries a strong odor, contains contaminants and can only be repurposed into black or grey products such as park benches or car bumpers.

 EthicalStoriesEthicalMe-plastic-recycling-JohnLayman-NationalGeographic

PureCycle (for which John Layman is the founding inventor) used a physical solvent-based process to purify polypropylene that uses less energy than a chemical process does.  Once the plastic has been purified it is combined with additives that modify the polypropylene resin for use for a wider variety of applications. This closes the recycling loop and gives polypropylene a brighter future than a car bumper!

 

Layman has high hopes, and wants PureCycle to be purify and recycle 119-million pounds of polypropylene a year, but he acknowledges that we still have a way to go. PureCycle has hopes to expand from one plant to 25 around the world, so watch this space!

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