The desire to recycle plastic even better is there, but it requires effort from everyone. 

How to make plastics even more recyclable?
We separate our plastic waste every day. In doing so, we make it possible for it to be recycled. However, the percentage that is recycled is still very low, because only 13% of all plastic waste that ends up in the container is reused. Our colleague Jaap den Doelder, who is also professor at Eindhoven University of Technology, recently explained at the TV programme Atlas what we can do even better in separating and recycling plastic waste. The reason why the recycling percentage is so low is mainly because different types of plastic end up in the same pile. Jaap explains: “If you throw all plastic waste in one pile – apart from deposit bottles – then you get an average product with average properties. That is not good, because you can only make thick-walled products out of it, such as roadside posts or benches in the parks.”

Floating separation of waste 
By separating waste better and in a different way, you can make more different products. A lot of research is currently being done on this. In the broadcast, Atlas shows a short report on how plastic can be separated by allowing it to float. This is done by dropping plastic particles into a container with a magnetic liquid. As a result, the plastic particles with the same mass density will float at a different height than the plastic particles with a different mass density. 

The solution 
“Stopping separating is not the solution”, according to Jaap. “Plastic is all around us and there is a reason for that. The CO2 story of plastic is very positive, because plastic is a thin material to perform a certain function. What we forgot is to think about a second or a third life: the recycling of plastic.” 

What solutions are there? “First reuse where possible and then recycle. Now we recycle mechanically, melting the plastic chips that remain after sorting into a new product. The molecules of the plastic shreds remain long, but there are impurities that make the quality not always good. Chemical recycling can shorten the molecules. It requires more energy, but eventually these chemical processes create a kind of oil. From that oil, we can make plastic again which is also of higher quality”, Jaap explains. 

Watch the broadcast with Jaap here:

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Listen to the Podcast with Anton van Beek

Listen to the Podcast via the link below, in which Maikel Harte talks to Anton van Beek about the sustainable ambition of Dow Terneuzen.