Innovating with Plastics

Innovating with Plastics

This bi-monthly blog series will focus on the growing global issue of plastic waste in the environment. In it, we will discuss the threat plastic waste poses to the environment and economies around the globe, solutions on the horizon, as well as companies and organizations that are, like Resinate, working to make a difference.

In a world where one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute and five trillion single-use plastic bags are used every year1, it seems impossible to manage the amount of plastic waste being generated. An Ellen Macarthur Foundation report found that most plastic packaging is only used once – resulting in $80-120 billion in value of plastic packaging material lost annually. Innovation is the key to capturing this value and preventing plastic waste from becoming even more ubiquitous in the natural environment.

Eastman recently launched ‘carbon renewal technology’ that is capable of recycling some of the most difficult plastic waste, including flexible packaging and plastic films like grocery bags. Their innovative technology would allow this waste to be diverted from landfills and converted into building blocks for products like methyl acetate, acetic acid, and acetic anhydride. These valuable molecules are then used to manufacture cellulosic performance films for items such as eyeglass frames and LCD screens. Eastman has now completed pilot tests and expects commercial production this year by leveraging existing assets.

Polyethylene (used for grocery and trash bags, bubble wrap, flexible packaging, etc.) accounts for a third of all plastics produced globally. 97% of post-consumer plastic films end up in landfills and oceans, making films the most prevalently found marine plastic pollution.2 A California based company, Biocellection, has created an innovative process that turns this plastic waste into chemical intermediates including succinic acid, adipic acid, and azelaic acid. These materials are typically produced using petroleum – but this solution replaces fossil fuel with one of the most common, and difficult to recycle types of plastic waste.

In order to move toward a circular economy for plastics, we need to make the process of recycling more efficient. Ocean Optics is working to improve the sorting step of this process with near-infrared spectroscopy. By measuring the spectral differences between the polymer types that make up different types of plastics, this technology makes sorting more accurate and effective. This results in both lower costs and purer, more consistent material for recycling which can then be taken downstream for value-added materials.

At Resinate, we continue to develop innovative products that create a circular economy for plastics, upcycling them into polyols for higher-value applications. We are passionate about our work and the problem it aims to help solve – thus are always thinking about ways to find solutions for plastic waste, and continuously seek opportunities to collaborate.

Mike Christy
Technical Account Manager

 

1. https://www.unenvironment.org/interactive/beat-plastic-pollution/
2. http://www.closedlooppartners.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/FilmRecyclingInvestmentReport_Final.pdf

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *