Is Chemical Recycling the Answer to the Plastic Waste Crisis?

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It is estimated that over 700 species of marine animals are known to be affected each year by the staggering amounts of plastic that end up in our oceans. This is one of the many shocking revelations that tell us something needs to be done in order to make recycling plastic more sustainable. Could chemical recycling be a game-changer for the recycling industry?

What is Chemical Recycling?

Innovation was desperately needed in the plastic waste industry and it has come in the form of chemical recycling. In simple terms, chemical recycling is when used plastic is broken back down to its original form so that it can eventually be remade and used in new plastic products. The process can vary but it typically involves using heat or a catalyst to break down the plastics into base chemicals. These chemicals can then be turned into virgin quality raw materials ready to be used for new products.

This is a significant step into tackling the waste crisis as an alarming amount of plastic can’t actually be recycled with dirty plastic or plastic containing food normally ending up in landfills and our oceans. The chemical recycling process, however, is not affected by contamination and this offers a game-changing solution to the issue regarding plastic waste. Almost all plastics can be chemically recycled which could make this something to look out for in the future.

Are there any drawbacks?

One of the main challenges in this process is making it economically sustainable. It is currently a fairly expensive process and experts will need to try and find a way of making the process as inexpensive as possible. Another drawback to the process is that when the plastics are melted down, fumes are produced that could harm the animal and plant life whilst also producing carbon emissions, contributing to global warming. This raises the argument that the process could be counterproductive. Also, how would you feel if you found out a plastic recycling plant was being built near your house?

Is this the answer?

Whilst chemical recycling offers some hope in the global plastic crisis we certainly can’t afford to think it is the answer to all the problems. It is still crucial to cut down using plastic whenever possible and recycle it when we do use it, otherwise, a bad situation will get even worse. However, we must start producing less plastic in the first place to save energy and minimise co2 emissions. At Plastic Expert, we are committed to helping businesses become more sustainable and we offer a recycling service for a wide variety of plastics that can help your company cut your carbon footprint and reduce the amount of plastic ending up in landfills. 

There is a good reason for people to be excited about the new, innovative technologies being developed for chemical recycling, as it provides opportunities for more plastic to be broken down and reused. This will ultimately result in less plastic needing to be produced in the first place. It will need time and investment to grow and will need to work together alongside the mechanical recycling industry in order to make a real impact on the plastic waste crisis. 


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