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What’s the buzz about Pyrolysis to recycle plastic

Many people have been talking about Pyrolysis as a solution to the plastics-recycling problem. Does this method offer the solution some experts claim it will? What’s the big deal?

There are problems with plastic recycling.

You must first understand the problems that plastic recycling faces. The main problem is the need to sort and collect plastics. When districts switched to zero sorting, they left it to recycling facilities. Most people need to recycle correctly.

Plastics can be accepted in different districts. One may get all plastics, while another only takes #1 and #2. Mixtures of plastics, such as #7, are not born very often. However, people still put them into their recycling bins. This can contaminate plastics. Workers must be careful to remove any items that cannot be recycled.

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The common problem is that items too small to recycle are thrown in the trash anyway. The issue of bottle caps is a very common one. When people recycle their soda or water bottles, they often leave the lids on. These caps are not the same plastic-type and can’t be recycled.

Recycling methods include:

Mechanical Recyclage – Separating and shredding plastics into smaller pieces, melting the plastics to create new products.

Recycling of Plastics– Reducing polymers in plastics into monomers to create new products.

Pyrolysis eliminates the need to separate the plastics. The goal is to boost the plastic recycling industry, which currently has a low rate. According to government reports, about 8.7% of the plastics in the United States were recycled. Beyond Plastics, Last Beach Cleanup, and others believe it will be down to just 5% by 2021.

Since China has stopped accepting recyclables from the United States, recycling rates have decreased. Plastics that are not recycled end up in landfills, where they take hundreds of years to decompose. This is a severe problem.

Understanding Pyrolysis

Pyrolysis involves heating plastics in an oxygen-free environment. No oxygen is present, so there’s nothing that combusts. However, some people argue that heat can still be considered incineration. Plastics are broken down to create a crude oil-like product that can be used for fuel, as a chemical feedstock, or as a liquid or gas. The product contains impurities such as chlorine, nitrogen, and oxygenates.

The breakdown of plastics during mechanical recycling weakens plastics over time. Pyrolysis can restore the plastic’s quality without altering its appearance.

The steps to Pyrolysis

  • The plastics are then dried and broken down into small pieces used as biomass.
  • In a pyrolyzer, they are exposed to heat and oxygen-free conditions.
  • The biomass is separated, and the condensation is either stored in a bio-oil tank or used to power a furnace that provides heat and electricity.
  • Sand is sent to a sand-firing furnace, and char is stored for soil amendment.

This is one of the main reasons why Pyrolysis has become so popular. It is possible to pyrolyze mixed plastics. This method does not require plants to separate the plastics. Impurities must be removed again. Sulzer developed a multi-stage procedure for breaking down composite materials.

  • Quenching: Rapidly cools plastics in the Pyrolysis to create condensation, which stops the process and allows for the next step.
  • Hydrotreating: Impurities can be removed by hydrotreating. This removes heteroatoms and saturates olefins.
  • Fractionation: The oil from the pyrolysis process is now purified and must be fractionated to recover naphtha and diesel.
  • BTX recovery – This technology is unique to Sulzer Chemtech and can recover benzene, toluene, and xylene for reuse in the petrochemical industries.
  • Wax and Oil Recovery: The pyrolysis oil is finally processed to recover wax and oil for reuse.

Quantafuel, a Danish company, partnered with Sulzer Chemtech to create a recycling facility. The plant is expected to be able to process 60 tonnes per day of non-recyclable plastics and produce 48 tonnes of hydrocarbons for fuels and chemicals.

Reduce your dependence on plastics.

You can reduce your dependence on plastic by reducing the amount of plastic you use at home and work. If you must buy plastic, choose items made of recycled plastic.

You can reduce your plastic consumption by using the following products.

  • Sandwich containers made of stainless steel: Instead of using plastic bags for your sandwiches, invest in a stainless-steel sandwich container you can clean and reuse.
  • Reusable produce bags: Purchase mesh bags for your produce. Use your mesh bags instead of plastic bag for produce at the store. Wash them between shopping trips.
  • Refillable Water Bottle – Purchase a refillable bottle. Fill up your water bottle at home before going to work or school. You can easily find water bottles made of stainless steel or aluminum in most stores.
  • Glass storage containers: Only the lids of glass storage containers are made from plastic. This reduces the amount you use of plastic. Contact the company if the cover is damaged or worn out to find out how to get replacement lids.
  • Canvas shopping bags: Purchase several canvas bags and bring them to the store for grocery shopping. No need to ask the cashier for plastic or paper bags.

Look for items made of recycled plastic when you are shopping. Some clothing designers use a woven filament spun from plastic bottles. Shoes made of ocean plastics are available. Also, you can find decorative rugs that are made of recycled plastic. You can support a circular economic system by purchasing items made of recycled materials.

Reuse as much as you can. Spray paint those bald tires in your garage a fun color, stack them, fill them with potting soil, and plant some flowers. These tires are eye-catching and add curb appeal. They also eliminate the need for pots.

Lastly, recycle plastics correctly. If you cannot recycle a particular plastic in your bins, you may still be able to recycle it at your local district if they receive the plastics. Ask garden centers if you can return the plastic pots or ask other people in your neighborhood if they want to use them. Styrofoam cartons can be helpful for those who raise chickens in the backyard.

Save all packaging in a transparent plastic bag, such as bubble wrap, air cushions, padded mailers, and plastic bags for bread, produce, or other items. Take the bag along with you on your shopping trip. Most grocery stores usually place Plastic film recycling bins near the entrance or bottle return. You can save a lot of plastic from landfills by recycling.

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Jane S. King

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