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Currently, recycling requires nearly absolute sorting of materials to accommodate the limited capabilities of existing recycling infrastructure. Whether a material is “recyclable” depends more on the method of recycling than the material itself. Our dependence upon sorting has limited success of recycling and has stifled our ability to achieve circular economy sustainability with plastic packaging materials. Our dependence upon sorting is rooted in our material-specific recycling processes. However, newer robust recycling processes are commercially available that reduce or eliminate the need to sort waste, and can convert mixed waste into primary feedstock chemicals, such as methanol for subsequent manufacture of new products, plastics, and packaging. China is one country with significant plastics production capacity using methanol as the primary feedstock. Distributed production of waste-derived Eco-Methanol™ has the potential to significantly improve plastic recycling rates while synergistically improving purity of material-specific recycling processes, resulting in greater availability of post-consumer recycled-content (PCR) materials for manufacturers.
In this study, a variety of materials associated with waste from consumer-packaged goods was treated using a state-of-the-art, commercially available, robust gasification system. For all materials studied, the process proved capable of generating high-quality synthesis gas (syngas) with high yield. Syngas is already being produced commercially on a global scale, often from coal and natural gas. Syngas is often converted into methanol using proven commercial technologies. These proven commercial processes open a clear pathway for true plastics circularity. Mixed waste conversion to syngas, methanol and then to new products, plastics, and packaging represents a rational pathway to circularity while providing a market-based approach for extended producer responsibility (EPR) by sourcing materials produced from post-consumer waste derived Eco-Methanol.
Welt, Bruce A.
"Robust gasification trial results for a variety of difficult-to-recycle packaging-related materials,"
Journal of Applied Packaging Research: Vol. 15:
1, Article 6.
Available at: https://repository.rit.edu/japr/vol15/iss1/6