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Efficient chemical recycling

The University of Konstanz is introducing a novel process for the chemical recycling of polyethylene-type plastics.

According to the developers, the process should be more sustainable than previous ones because it would allow PE-type plastics to be chemically recycled in a far more energy-efficient way and with a high recovery rate of around 96 percent of the starting material. Up to now, temperatures of more than 600 degrees Celsius are said to have been required to recycle PE plastics into small molecules, making the process very energy-intensive. The newly developed process were using "predetermined breaking points" at the molecular level, which only requires temperatures of around 120 degrees. The key to the process would be plastics with a low density of predetermined breaking points in the polyethylene chain, so that the crystalline structure and material properties are not affected, explains Professor Stefan Mecking, a chemist at the University of Konstanz, adding that this class of plastics is well suited to 3-D printing. The process was first demonstrated on PE-type plastics based on vegetable oil, but also on mixtures with other plastics from waste streams.

  • (2/17/2021)
  • Photo: © University of Konstanz

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