The recycling process of plastic is like a spiral of waste and degraded materials. But now a different recycling is possible: turning plastic into the oil from which it is made.
Did you know that only 9% of the total plastic produced in the world is recycled? This is indeed a very low rate. The biggest reason why this rate is so low is that recycling of plastic requires advanced technology and long and difficult processes. Plastic is produced with polymer chemistry, and what we are talking about now is that this polymer chemistry turns the plastic back into oil.
The name given to this process is chemical recycling, and it is currently being researched as an alternative to existing recycling practices. Normal recycling processes and technologies are difficult, but chemical recycling also requires a great deal of energy. When the ever-changing prices of crude oil are added to this huge energy need, producing plastic from scratch unfortunately costs less than recycling.
The annual amount of plastic production in the world is more than 380 million tons. Only 16% of this amount of plastic produced is recycled and new plastic is produced. The remaining plastics are either incinerated or thrown away.
In fact, chemical recycling is the process of recycling plastics that are not recyclable due to some of their properties and are not suitable for recycling. In other words, there is no plastic that is not recycled in chemical recycling and all of them are converted to their original state. This creates an endless transformation system.
Raw material recycling forms the basis of chemical recycling. Its other name is thermal transformation and polymers are broken down into simple molecules with the help of heat.
Chemical Recycling Process
We can explain this simple process as follows. After a plastic bottle is used and thrown away, it is collected and taken to the recycling facility. At the facility, garbage is separated manually or mechanically according to its types. After this bottle is cleaned and shredded, it is packed together with the others in the form of a bale. All the processes up to this point are the same as the normal recycling process. Chemical recycling begins after this point. The plastic of the bottle is taken to the pyrolysis center and melted and subjected to a lot of heat in the pyrolysis reactor. This allows the plastic to turn into gas. The plastic that turns into gas is cooled to condense enough to turn into oil. The resulting oil is distilled to be used in different fields.
Some techniques for chemical recycling are still in the testing phase. One of these techniques is currently being tested by UK-based Recycling Technologies. The firm developed a machine. This is a pyrolysis machine that turns film, sachets and laminated plastics into Plaxx. The purpose of this output, which is a kind of liquid hydrocarbon feedstock, is to make quality plastics. For this purpose, the company established its first unit in 2020.
On the other hand, Plastic Energy company continues to work on the same chemical recycling process. It aims to add facilities to its two facilities in Spain, which it will establish in France, the Netherlands and England.
The plastics that the company recycles are plastics that are difficult to recycle. They recycle plastics like dry pet food bags into plastics that can be used in food.