United States – Scientists at the US Illinois Sustainability Technology Center claim they are the first group to have found a way to separate mixed polymers so that they can be recycled into new, high-quality plastic products in an energy-efficient and sustainable way.
Recycling of plastics used to make consumer products like mobile phones cases is problematic due to the complex blends of polymers, observes Sriraam Chandrasekaran, research engineer at the Illinois Sustainability Technology Center.
Together with fellow scientists, he applied a chemical solvent called NMP to dissolve the composite materials’ structure, allowing them to effectively recover the polymers. The laboratory trials suggest that mixed-plastic electronics waste could be a ‘valuable source’ of reusable polymers, Chandrasekaran states.
One ‘particularly efficient’ feature of the innovative recycling method is the ability to condense the evaporated solvent for reuse again and again.
Also, the researchers managed to convert any remaining polymer waste into usable fuel thanks to pyrolysis, thus diverting even more plastics from landfills.