Warwick team finds recycling breakthrough

Researchers at Warwick University are developing techniques that could mark a breakthrough in recycling technology.

The team on campus have been researching and experimenting with methods of recycling all types of plastic as, at the moment, only certain types of materials can be recycled. This reusable material amounts to just 12 percent of all plastics, but this latest breakthrough could see the technique used at rubbish tips around the country to reduce waste and money.

They have discovered a new method of reducing waste products into useful materials such as wax for lubricants, acids that can be used in plastic drinks bottles and carbon which is used in paint pigments and tyres.

The lead researcher on the project, University of Warwick Engineering Professor Jan Baeyens, estimates that if a large scale plant was built, it could save councils £500,000 in landfill taxes alongside generating over five million pounds worth of recycled materials.

“As the expected energy costs for each large plant would only be in the region of £50,000 a year, the system will be commercially very attractive and give a rapid payback on capital and running costs.”

The team is now working with technology transfer department Warwick Ventures in order to try and expand the research and spread the knowledge to local authorities and waste disposal companies.

Kevin Marks, business development manager at Warwick Ventures, said: “I see the social impacts as being huge.

“At the moment we collect plastics and sometimes the bottles are manually sorted because they’re valuable but other plastics – things like films and margarine tubs – are mixed, and then we burn them or we throw them away.”

Instead of wasting these plastics, the University research team has developed a method of recycling them by blowing hot air through sand in a ‘fluidised bed’ reactor.

The result of this technique means that many more useful materials can be gained from breaking down plastics.

John Lapage, the Undergraduate Science Faculty Representative at the Student’s Union described the developments as “another excellent piece of research that demonstrates the need to invest in universities in order to further technological advances.”

First year History and Politics student Oliver Davey also believed that the research was positive. “It’s brilliant to see that Warwick is making a significant contribution towards reducing our impact on the environment. Recycling is evidently important and the extent to which we can now reuse materials is incredible.”


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