Plans to create a viable market for hard-to-recycle plastic waste received a boost today, after a group of companies secured £800,000 in government funding to develop a process that removes coloured pigment from rigid plastics so they can be more easily turned into new products.
The “unique” project – a collaboration between recycling compliance scheme Ecosurety, plastic specialist Impact Solutions, and plastic injection moulder firm McLaren Plastics – uses a chemical process to remove colours from single-use plastics without destroying the original plastic polymers, thereby making them easier to recycle, the companies claim.
The UK alone currently sends an estimated one million tonnes of coloured rigid plastics, such as black plastic microwave food trays, to landfill or incineration each year. Unlike most clear or white plastics coloured plastics cannot be detected by machines which use lasers to sort plastic waste in recycling facilities. As a result, coloured single-use plastics have a lower market value and are often sent for landfill or incineration.
The three companies therefore plan to use the Innovate UK grant to develop and bring to market the first commercially accessible process for removing the pigment in coloured, rigid plastics that they claim could “easily” be integrated into existing recycling facilities.
It is envisaged that the resulting PolyMet-treated plastic feedstock can then be reincorporated into the plastic manufacturing process as a low-cost, high-value material that could help companies boost their plastics recycling rates.
Tom Rose, innovation manager at Impact Solutions, said the technology could help transform the UK recycling market through increased capacity, revenue, and jobs.
“As plastic technology specialists, finding a solution to the 3.5 million tonnes of plastic material currently being dumped in landfill by the UK each year was a challenge we couldn’t resist,” he said. “This £0.8m Innovate UK grant is welcome recognition of the work we have undertaken so far and an endorsement of the positive impact that PolyMet could have for producers, reprocessors and on the environment.”
The PolyMet process itself was developed by Impact Solutions, and the two-year project will see Ecosurety provide consultancy support, with McLaren Plastics working to validate the suitability of the processed plastic for injection moulding in the manufacturing sector.
Ecosurety CEO James Piper also welcomed the funding. “The long-term objectives of Impact Solutions – to develop a technology that can add value to a plastic contaminant – fits perfectly with Ecosurety’s broader vision of driving forward positive change through increased recycling capacity in the UK recycling sector,” he said.
Fuente: Business Green