Skip to main content

California pioneers chemical process for dirty plastics

US start-up BioCellection has developed a chemical process to recycle contaminated plastic film. The material is shredded but doesn’t have to be washed. ‘Our liquid catalyst that doesn’t require the plastics to be clean’, explains BioCellection co-founder Miranda Wang.

BioCellection operates from a facility in California, where it runs a chemical process to break the polymer bonds of post-consumer film to yield a chemical that by-passes the use of petroleum. Miranda Wang, who launched the company with Jeanny Yao, reports that initial tests have achieved up to 70% plastic waste to product conversion within 3 hours.

Chemical reflux

First, the plastic is shredded, after which it is loaded into a glass container, soaked in a clear liquid catalyst at 248°F. Essentially, BioCellection employs what it describes as a chemical reflux technique to supply energy to the reaction over time.

‘Through hundreds of experiments, we’ve identified a catalyst that cuts open polymer chains to trigger a smart chain reaction—at merely atmospheric pressure and a temperature that a water boiler can handle,’ Wang notes.

Once the polymer is broken into pieces with fewer than 10 carbon atoms, oxygen from the air adds to the chain and forms valuable organic acid species that can be harvested, purified, and used to create valuable new products.

Unlocking the potential of all plastics

‘Our innovation unlocks the potential of using plastic waste to replace oil as a resource for sustainable supply chains,’ Wang points out.

Besides, the researchers and engineers at BioCellection are exploring expanding the method to other types of plastic. Trials conducted thus far have yielded promising results for rigid plastics like polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate, as well as for foam plastics.

It sounds like 2019 may be a special year for the California start-up as well; BioCellection has hinted it is building a machine capable of breaking down 5 tonnes of plastic a day, which is said to be operational next year.

Miranda Wang (left): ‘We can solve the plastic pollution problem within our lifetime, it’s just a matter of working with the right people to make it happen.’

Would you like to share any interesting developments or article ideas with us? Don't hesitate to contact us.

You might find this interesting too

What can ocean clean-up projects really accomplish?
Recofloor opens for business again

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe now and get a full year for just €136 (normal rate is €170) Subscribe
Share your shear stories and win a GoPro!

It’s safe to say that scrap shears are the pillars of the recycling industry. But which configurations are the future? Take part in our tech survey and get a shot at winning a cool GoPro camera!

Thousands of scrap shears are driving recycling businesses all over the world. When it comes to different types, an operator may opt for maximum tonnage or flexibility, such as a mobile set-up. An integrated baling system is also gaining popularity. Ultimately, there is no wrong or right shear; it comes down to how you’re going to use it.

Our survey is meant to map the wants and needs of today’s dynamic recycling industry. Voice your opinion here and, who knows, you may be able to capture your recycling facility in action in HD.

TAKE SURVEY!