Recycling is a pet peeve of mine. I think everyone should recycle, and recycle correctly. This means understanding what is and is not recyclable in their area, and acting accordingly. This also means understanding how recycling (or downcycling) works, and the cost (not just money, but energy, water, etc).
That being said, pressure to be able to recycle better is coming from all sides, and it might just be making a difference. A handful of companies are investigating ways to make recycling more efficiently, and it’s about time. Here are some of the companies that are making leaps and bounds in the field, and what they are doing.
LOOP technology: produced pure, food grade PTA and ethylene glycol (the building blocks to PET) which could be used in food packaging. The breakthrough… they do it without high pressures or temperatures, but instead use some patented solvent that breaks plastic into monomers. The company says that 95% of this solvent can then be reused.(read more here). I wonder though what the impacts of this solvent are.
Recycling Technologies: Plastic is made from oil, which is a precious commodity. This company uses a process called thermal cracking to turn plastic back into useable fuels (read more here). My concern then, is that we are turning solid form of oil into liquid to burn, which will continue climate change.
Regardless of these new advances, the process of recycling is incredibly complex. We need to keep thinking outside of the bottle to come up with new ways to deal with complex plastics. I am not a fool. I know that plastic will always play an important role in our lives. But if we can be less wasteful, and more efficient, we can still enjoy our food, drinks, cars, and airplanes without sacrificing our fish, dolphins and birds.
Read about some more recycling innovations here
Read a more technical report on recycling process here