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University of Wisconsin-Madison chemical engineers have developed a new method to harness low-value waste plastics, such as the Olefins found in Pyrolysis Oil and turn them into high-value products

by | Aug 16, 2023

A new plastic recycling method has been developed which reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 60% and offers the ability to change how plastics are recycled. Currently in the United States only 9% of waste plastic is reused as most plastic is not recyclable. However, this new method means that more plastic, such as plastic film, multilayer materials and coloured plastics, will be able to be reused and low-value waste plastic can now be turned into high-value products.

The new method involves utilising products such as Olefins produced as waste from existing chemical processing techniques and developing these waste materials into a useful high-value product.

 The recycling process involves taking olefins from pyrolysis oil where it is stored as a waste product when chemical manufacturers subject petroleum to extremely high heat and pressure. Once the olefins are recovered, the chemical engineers from University of Wisconsin-Madison then use them in a lower energy-intensive chemical process, called homogenous hydroformylation catalysis. During this process the olefins are converted into aldehydes which can be reduced into important industrial alcohols.

This new method aims to increase the economic incentive to recycle plastic as it means new types of plastic are now able to be recycled and the plastics can be reused and developed into higher-value products such as soaps, cleaners and other useful polymers.

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