With the announcement today of new technology aimed at increasing the amount and type of waste plastics that are able to be recycled, Honeywell has joined the ranks of the chemical, raw materials and technology companies active in the fast-growing advanced recycling industry.
Around the globe, interest in advanced recycling has continued to expand over the past year, despite the doubts and concerns voiced in various quarters about the environmental credentials of the various technologies. Nor has the pandemic dampened the enthusiasm about its potential as a solution for recycling the vast mountains of hitherto unrecyclable waste.
2021 has seen a continuous flow of announcements ranging from trials with new traceability solutions, announcements of new plants, partnerships, acquisitions, or equity stakes - and new players, such as Honeywell, entering the industry. According to a study published by AMI International in September 2020, waste plastics processed through advanced recycling technologies, such as UpCycle Process Technology, could amount to between 5 and 15 million tons of additional plastic waste being recycled per year by 2030. And earlier this year, another study found that if all the announced projects are actually built, installed advanced recycling capacity would be 400% more by 2025 than is available today.
According to Honeywell, its new UpCycle Process Technology makes use of sophisticated molecular conversion, pyrolysis, and contaminants management technology allowing waste plastic to be converted back into what the company calls Honeywell Recycled Polymer Feedstock. This feedstock can then be used to create new plastics.
The process can easily handle waste plastics that would otherwise go unrecycled, such as coloured, flexible, multilayered packaging and polystyrene. When used in conjunction with other chemical and mechanical recycling processes -- along with improvements to collection and sorting – the technology has the potential to increase the amount of global plastic waste that can be recycled to 90%, the company claims.
“Plastics play an important role in our society, including expanding the shelf life of food and making vehicles lighter, which reduces their emissions. Unfortunately, only a fraction of plastics today can be successfully recycled,” said Vimal Kapur, president and chief executive officer of Honeywell Performance Materials and Technologies. “By broadening the types of plastic that can be recycled, UpCycle will revolutionise the plastics economy and play a critical role in improving the sustainability of many of the products we use on a daily basis.”