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Thursday, July 11, 2024

Right here’s the issue with new plastic recycling strategies

However there are a couple of challenges with this course of that I see loads 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 hard to get well after it’s used.  

Recycling strategies additionally typically wind up degrading the product ultimately, a tough downside to unravel. This can be a main downside to conventional mechanical recycling as effectively—typically, recycled plastic isn’t fairly as robust 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 effective 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 quick to be spun into new yarn. So as an alternative of a brand new T-shirt, the cotton from this course of is likely to be 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 up to now. 

This story bought me fascinated about a current function from ProPublica, the place Lisa Track took a have a look at the truth of business superior recycling in the present day. She targeted on pyrolysis, which makes use of warmth to interrupt down plastic into its constructing blocks. As she outlines within the story, whereas the trade pitches these new strategies as an answer to our plastics disaster, the truth of the expertise in the present day is way from the perfect we think about. 

Most new recycling strategies are nonetheless in growth, and it’s actually tough to get well 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 giant sufficient to even make a dent in our plastics downside is a large problem. 

Simply one thing to remember the following time you see these little arrows. 

Associated studying

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

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