Mechanical recycling is the processing of plastic waste into secondary raw material without significantly changing the chemical structure of the material.
TARGET USERS: Industry, Government
KEY CONSIDERATIONS: Transitioning to a circular economy that retains plastic in its highest value condition is essential to reduce environmental impacts, promoting reduction, reuse, and recycling.
MORE INFORMATION: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/marc.202000415
The global plastics economy is largely linear. Plastics are produced, used and more than half of them are disposed with no recovery. To preserve the environment while meeting consumption demands, a global effort to shift the linear economy into a circular model must be made. It is imperative to maintain plastic polymers in their highest value state, ensuring the materials we depend upon can stay in circulation.
Mechanical recycling of plastics refers to the processing of plastic waste into secondary raw material without significantly changing the chemical structure of the material. In principle, all types of thermoplastics can be mechanically recycled with little or no quality impairment. It nearly represents the sole form of recycling in Europe today.
Waste streams that can easily provide clean plastic of a single type in large quantities are ideal for mechanical recycling and represent a win-win situation from an environmental and economic perspective: the environmental benefits from substituting virgin material generally exceed the environmental burden from collection, sorting, transport and recycling operations, while the costs of such operations can be outweighed by potential revenues from selling recyclates on the market.
CASE STUDY EXAMPLES
With synthetics, Patagonia has been able to use mechanical melting of plastic PET bottles because there is a clean source of post-consumer bottles that result in a high-quality recycled finished product. See https://eu.patagonia.com/es/en/our-footprint/mechanical-recycling.html for more information.
Replas is an Australian mixed recycled plastic manufacturer that aims to provide a solution for plastic waste by delivering over 200 recycled plastic products using state-of-the-art machinery and robotics together with a focus on energy and efficiency. The product range includes bollards, decking, fencing, fitness trails and furniture, as well as products suitable for traffic control, parks, gardens and the utilities industry. Visit https://www.replas.com.au/ to learn more.
See other products made from mechanical recycling processes here: http://www.circulareconomyasia.org/mechanical-recycling/
Chemical recycling refers to processes that turn plastic polymers back into individual monomers, allowing post-consumer plastic materials to be reused. See https://plasticsmartcities.org/products/chemical-recycling to learn more.