New plastic recycling technology works without water

plastic for recycling
CC BY-SA 2.0 Risager

There's a reason that the three Rs go in this order: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. To truly reduce your environmental impact, recycling should be the last step after you've exhausted the other two options.

Let's be clear. Recycling is amazing. It allows the materials in otherwise one-use objects to go on to become something new and saves resources over sourcing new materials, but the unfortunate part of recycling is that it is water- and energy-intensive. Typically, plastic is washed with detergents and then ground into smaller pieces or beads. Those pieces then have to be dried in order to crystallize, which involves exposing it to 180 degree Celsius heat and then cooling it back down with water.

A new process developed by Ak Inovex in Mexico recycles plastics with zero water. It is able to form the plastic beads with no excessive temperatures either, meaning that the technology not only saves water, but uses half the energy of conventional recycling methods.

The water-free method can process more than 90 percent of any type of plastic, including styrofoam, polystyrene, PET and ABS. Because it is a simpler method, it requires less space and, according to Ak Inovex, the beads produced are of a higher quality.

Gizmag reports that the technology utilizes special walls that, "on contact, are able to both mold the plastic into the desired pellet shape and cool those pellets at the same time," in place of high temperatures and water baths. Ak Inovex has a patent pending on the three different technologies that make this possible.

The next step is to replace the lye detergent that is used with a special biodetergent that would make the process even safer and cheaper. The company already is partnering with ALINSA group, a company that specializes in making environmentally friendly cleaning products using biodegradable chemicals.

Tags: Energy Efficiency | Plastics | Recycling | Technology | Water Conservation

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