Research : Can pyrolysis solve the plastic waste problem?

hand of traces of plastic and microplastic in petri dish, analyzed in laboratory, study of environmental problem
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Researchers at the University of Ghent looked at advanced recycling as a means to gain high-quality petrochemical feedstock of mixed plastic waste streams.

Even though advanced plastic waste recycling via pyrolysis and subsequent steam cracking of pyrolysis oils has the potential to partly close the cycle between the petrochemical production of plastics and current end-of-life waste management, they write, the greatest obstacle for chemical recycling is the high contamination of plastic waste.. Of course the complex composition of real plastic waste often also hinders good results.

The scientists therefore see the need for universally applicable upgrading and decontamination techniques. "Techniques range from waste pre-treatment to reduce the halogen and additive contents, via in-situ techniques applied during pyrolysis to post-treatment techniques to purify the obtained pyrolysis oils using hydrotreatment, filtration or adsorption," they say.

If those where incorporated into a petrochemical cluster, high-quality petrochemical feedstocks could be produced from plastic waste. Combined with electrification it could lead to a CO2 emission reduction of >90% compared to incineration, which currently is the mostly used disposal method.