Recovery of plastic waste that is difficult to recycle
According to the OECD, less than 10% of the plastic produced worldwide is recycled. Of the 460 million tonnes of plastic produced worldwide in 2019, 353 million tonnes were produced as waste. But only 9% of plastic waste was ultimately recycled, while 19% was incinerated and almost 50% ended up in landfills. The remaining 22% was dumped in landfills, burnt in the open or released into the environment.
In Belgium, the situation is less alarming with 49% of plastic waste not being recycled. This represents 168,000 tonnes of plastic waste that is either incinerated or landfilled. And we are only talking about plastic packaging waste.
The cost of processing this plastic waste in Belgium varies between 400 and 1,500€/T.
For these reasons, Metabolism, in order to remain faithful to its vision of local and circular recovery of urban waste, has decided to tackle the most difficult to recycle plastic waste.
We are working on a small-scale machine to transform unusable polymer waste into its constituents, monomers or equivalents, via pyrolysis, making it useful for industry.
The aim of this small machine is to allow small entities, i.e. SMEs and small communities to install a local recycling unit to transform (chemically) plastics and more widely polymers into their essential constituents. For example, polypropylene (e.g. plastic cups) is converted into iso-hexane, and other hydrocarbon chains of similar weight.
This is a structural solution, allowing any entity wishing to have a local and reasonable scale solution for recycling plastic waste.
This machine reduces the amount of plastic waste that needs to be sorted and managed, as the sources of this waste will have a useful local destination. Users will naturally tend to process this waste locally, and extract the useful substance from it.
It directly reduces the need for landfill or incineration, as polymer waste that is landfilled or incinerated can be recycled locally.
It also contributes to a certain extent to the reuse of these wastes, since by transforming them into their essential constituents, these hydrocarbons can eventually be used by industrial units to make new polymers. The total volume of waste produced will be reduced because at the source of its production, a new use will be found for it. For example, a meat tray can go directly into this machine and will not be a waste product for its users.