Right here’s the issue with new plastic recycling strategies

Right here’s the issue with new plastic recycling strategies
Right here’s the issue with new plastic recycling strategies

However there are a number of challenges with this course of that I see quite a bit in recycling strategies. First, reaching a big industrial scale can be tough—as one researcher that Sarah spoke to identified, the solvent used within the course of is dear and difficult to recuperate after it’s used.  

Recycling strategies additionally usually wind up degrading the product indirectly, a difficult drawback to resolve. It is a main downside to conventional mechanical recycling as effectively—usually, recycled plastic isn’t fairly as sturdy or sturdy because the recent stuff. Within the case of this research, the issue isn’t truly with the plastic, however with the opposite supplies that researchers are attempting to protect.

The start of the textile recycling course of entails shredding the clothes into fantastic items to permit the chemical substances to seep in and do their work breaking down the plastic. That chops up the cotton fibers too, rendering them too brief to be spun into new yarn. So as an alternative of a brand new T-shirt, the cotton from this course of is perhaps damaged down and used as one thing else, like biofuel. 

There’s potential for future enchancment—the researchers tried to alter up their technique to disassemble the materials in a approach that might protect longer cotton fibers, however the reported analysis suggests it doesn’t work effectively with the chemical course of to this point. 

This story obtained me fascinated by a recent feature from ProPublica, the place Lisa Track took a take a look at the truth of business superior recycling at this time. She centered on pyrolysis, which makes use of warmth to interrupt down plastic into its constructing blocks. As she outlines within the story, whereas the business pitches these new strategies as an answer to our plastics disaster, the truth of the expertise at this time is much from the best we think about. 

Most new recycling strategies are nonetheless in improvement, and it’s actually tough to recuperate helpful supplies at excessive charges in a approach that makes it doable to make use of them once more. Doing all that at a scale massive sufficient to even make a dent in our plastics drawback is an enormous problem. 

Simply one thing to bear in mind the following time you see these little arrows. 

Associated studying

Learn Sarah’s full story on efforts to recycle blended textiles here

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