25. May 2020
Topic:  Technology

Sustainability, pyrolysis: the road to plastic redemption?

Sustainability, pyrolysis: the road to plastic redemption?

Pyrolysis appears to be a promising method for efficiently recycling plastic waste. Could it be the missing link to successfully integrating plastics into the circular economy? Robert Suchopa, lead of project PYREKOL at the ORLEN UNICre Research Center, came to “Let’s talk about it” to take a closer look at the issue with series host Michael Londesborough.

How does pyrolysis work?

The process of pyrolysis causes plastics, organic substances and other carbon-containing materials to disintegrate by exposing them to heat without oxygen. The resulting products are gas, oil and a solid fraction - coke. In contrast to material obtained through methods such as mechanical recycling, materials derived from pyrolysis offer superior quality and can be used as input materials for new, virgin-grade plastic products.

Economic outlook for pyrolysis

Pyrolysis units are already being built. What stands in the way of their widespread application today is primarily price. Pyrolytic gas and oil can either be used as fuel or further refined to serve as feedstock for new plastic production. However, the high level of comfort we’re accustomed to, our desire for cheap goods and current low crude oil prices stand in the way of pyrolysis-based products being competitive on the market. Nevertheless, stringent measures, increasingly strict European Union standards and growing environmental consciousness are slowly changing the situation.

Pyrolysis - savior of the plastic industry? 

Modern society is undeniably dependent on plastics. Plastics are not just straws and beer cups. We use them to produce car interiors, medical equipment, computer parts, tires, home appliances and more. All of these products have limited lifespans at the end of which they are discarded. In a linear economy, these products become waste. In today’s world we increasingly strive to establish more circular systems. The main goal is to extend product lifespans and return materials back into the production cycle, thus significantly increasing their value. 

How do the largest plastic manufacturers view the plastic crisis and do they believe pyrolysis could help solve it? What is the outlook of this promising technology?

Find out on “Let’s talk about it” here.

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