gr3n developed a technology that allows to enable a chemical recycling process for some plastics. Chemical recycling differs from mechanical recycling (currently used) since it produces monomers, or the basic components to produce plastics. In this way it is possible to produce new plastic that has the same characteristics of virgin plastic without any degradation. The chemical recycling also makes it possible to recycle all those plastic wastes that cannot be recycled mechanically, such as coupled plastics, opaque or strongly colored plastics, industrial waste from mechanical recycling and synthetic fabrics.
The technology developed and patented by gr3n is based on the application of micro-waves to the depolymerization process, functioning as a catalytic agent and improving the efficiency of the reaction. Furthermore, the selected reaction (basic hydrolysis) facilitates the purification process downstream of the depolymerization, ensuring higher purity products. In 2018 gr3n will complete the development of the industrial reactor (which has already been financed) and will complete the optimization tests. By the beginning of 2020, thanks to the funding obtained by the European Community, it will build the demonstration industrial plant, subsequently it will be ready for the commercialization of the plants.
The reference market of gr3n is that of PET (used to produce bottles and food trays) and of polyester (which is the most widely used fiber in the world to produce fabrics), for a total volume of about 80 million tons every year. Only a fraction of this volume, equal to about 10%, is recycled due to technological limitations, while the rest ends up in landfills, in incinerators or dispersed in the environment. The technology developed by gr3n would allow to recycle all the volume produced, reducing at the same time the use of energy of 67.4% and the CO2 emissions of 88.9% compared to the production of monomers from fossil fuels.
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