Chemical recycling of plastics Bridging business and the research community to accelerate the development of chemical recycling of plastics. HIGHLIGHTS • Axfoundation contributed to the successful testing of depolymerization on industrial waste streams of polyester, resulting in an output of more than 90%. • By using activated carbon in the chemical recycling process, hard to recycle contaminated polyester can be chemically recycled.
Axfoundation is exploring future solutions to increase the recyclability of today’s useless plastic waste streams. We do so by contributing to a project funded by Swedish innovation arena RE:source. The project, focusing on chemical recycling processes, is run by Swedish research institute RISE in collaboration with leading industry actors. Together with Axel Johnson International and Axfood, Axfoundation has enabled collaboration between researchers and businesses and now plays an active role in scaling the initiative through a consortium set up, with the goal of running a demo-scale pilot.
Results Successful testing of chemical recycling (depolymerization) has been carried out on food packaging from Axfood, as well as polyester straps from Axel Johnson International customers’ operations. Such materials are hard to recycle through mechanical processes, but by using activated carbon in the chemical recycling process the waste can be remade into new plastic material in the form of pure monomers. These monomers can in turn be used in the production of new plastics.
In addition, tests of repolymerization have been successfully conducted. The quality of the new polymers is sufficient for melt spinning and can be used for textiles, for example, by twisting it into yarn. More than 90% of the weight of the original strap becomes monomer, which is then used to make new polymer. The project indicates good recycling potential for the waste products, which are excellent resources for a circular model.