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Advanced Plastic Recycling Solutions Are Gaining Momentum

What's happening? Ineos and Plastic Energy have partnered to build a Thermal Anaerobic Conversion (TAC) facility to break down end-of-life plastic into the TACOIL raw material, which can be used to produce virgin plastic. The collaboration will utilise Plastic Energy's patented TAC technology, which produces the basic molecules required to create fresh polymers. By taking in previously un-recyclable plastic and outputting uncontaminated polymers, the two companies are aiding the transition towards a circular economy. Both firms are aiming to begin production from the new site by the end of 2023.
 
Why does this matter? We’ve previously noted how the Covid-19 pandemic is causing an increase in the use of disposable plastic. Additionally, interest groups are taking the opportunity to push for a delay of bans targeting single-use materials.
 
Against this backdrop, solutions targeting previously un-recyclable plastic should see their profile elevated.
 
Plastic Energy is a start-up with a London-based TAC technology team and two commercial plants operating in Almeria and Seville in Spain. It claims to be the only company in the world commercially converting mixed-waste, post-consumer plastics, and is supplying TACOIL and fuels to large chemical and petrochemical companies in Europe and elsewhere.
 
The firm’s technology is focused on the 65% of plastics currently not suitable for mechanical recycling, and in particular for the treatment of mixed contaminated streams including LDPE and HDPE (high and low density polyethylenes) and PP (polypropylene).  The feedstock is heated in the absence of oxygen to break down polymer molecules and create a saturated hydrocarbons vapour, which is then cracked into raw diesel and light oils.
 
Elsewhere, Israel’s UBQ has earned plaudits for championing a process using waste to produce recyclable plastic pellets. The firm converts residual municipal solid waste (RMSW) destined for landfills into its patented material. The waste material is broken down into its basic components of lignin, cellulose, sugar and fiber within a closed-loop conversion reactor system, although UBQ has remained secretive over the technology.

Nick Finegold is Founder & CEO of Curation Corp, an emerging and peripheral risks monitoring service.

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