Innovation That Matters

| Photo source DePoly

Chemical recycling turns unsorted plastic waste into good-as-new plastic


With its process, DePoly hopes to cut oil and energy usage, lower carbon emissions, and, most of all, reduce plastic waste

Spotted: Although nearly all kinds of plastic can be recycled, currently only ‘easy-to-recycle’ things, such as clean packaging or bottles, tend to actually get recycled. This results in very little post-consumer plastic waste getting recycled, and 22 per cent being burnt in open pits, going to unregulated landfills, or ending up in the environment.

One company, DePoly, is looking to use its enhanced recycling process to drastically increase the amount of plastic that can be repurposed, and cut the volume of oil that will be used to create new plastics. 

With DePoly’s process, all forms of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and polyester can be recycled, without the need to pre-wash, pre-melt, or separate out other plastics first. It is these initial processes that are considered prohibitive to recycling at the moment, due to the increased need for labour, energy, and cost. DePoly, by contrast, can recycle even heavily contaminated plastics, and the process takes place at room temperature, unlike other energy-intensive techniques. 

As the startup’s name suggests, its chemical process is a means of ‘depolymerisation’, wherein plastics are turned back into their raw monomers (building blocks for plastics). Conventional PET plastics are made from PTA and MEG (Purified Terephthalic acid and mono-ethylene glycol) which are, themselves, made from crude oil. DePoly negates the need for new oil to be used in plastics manufacturing by reverting existing materials back to their original state. 

The startup recently closed a CHF 12.3 million (around €12.8 million) seed funding round, which will help to commercialise the innovative process. 

There are multiple innovations tackling our plastic problem in the archive. Springwise has also spotted an online marketplace for circular plastic, as well as the world’s first biodegradable water bottle

Written By: Archie Cox




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