Despite ongoing efforts to reduce plastic waste, reuse is only a portion of it. Less than 30% of plastic waste, for instance, is reused in the EU. Some of it is being shipped for distribution to non-EU countries. The rest goes to waste or is incinerated in wetlands, lakes and oceans, or winds up on beaches.
The EU-funded DEMETO project tested a new technology to provide such a viable, clean, safe and profitable solution to PET/polyester plastic waste treatment to resolve this threat. PET refers to a thermoplastic resin for general usage, which is commonly used in the food and textile industries.
In a news item by the project partner Technical University of Denmark, Associate Professor Ioannis V. Skiadas says: "By integrating new microwave technologies with a well-known chemical reaction, a novel system has been developed that helps us to reuse PET in a way that is cost-effective and to use the recycling tool industrially."
Developed through the EU-funded SYMBIOPTIMA program, DEMETO's proprietary microwave radiation engineering and related chemical procedure includes the disassembly of polymers to gather their constituent building blocks for reuse in plastics manufacturing as a virgin component. Virgin, or prime material, refers to product that has never before been used or handled.
A project brochure points out that the DEMETO method "uses alkaline hydrolysis as a depolymerization reaction." Programme partner gr3n, who also participated in SYMBIOPTIMA, developed the DEMETO depolymerization technique.
The website of the project states: "The adoption of microwave radiation as an energetic catalyzer allows DEMETO to reduce reaction time and the complexity of PTA [ purified terephthalic acid ] purification steps while increasing efficiency through a constant process (instead of batch ones typical of the state-of-the-art industrial process)."
The website of the company states that' DEMETO's recycling innovation will provide PET with an infinite existence, enabling[ it] to return to its constituent elements (Ethylene Glycol, EG, and Terephthalic Acid, PTA) without damaging the resources and thus paving the way for a transformative, large-scale circular economy of plastic products.'
"The post-consuming PET can be perceived as an alternative to oil and gas thanks to the depolymerization cycle," as stated on the gr3n website. This is because, instead of natural fuels, "the building blocks for the latest virgin PET come from trash"
The 3-year project DEMETO (Modular, scalable and high-performance MicrowavE TechnolOgy DE-polymerization) is expected to end in 2020. Project partners hope to apply their technology to various forms of plastic, along with fibres such as nylon or polyester used for making carpets and textiles.
Tags : reduce plastic waste, DEMETO, Denmark, EU countries,