Vice: Government Scientists Make Breakthrough in Recycling Plastics That End Up In Landfills

Plastic is everywhere. According to the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Laboratory (NREL), in the United States, only 5 percent of plastic used is actually recycled. This is in large because plastics are not all chemically the same, making it harder and more expensive to separate individual polymers. These mixed plastics often build up in landfills and in the environment.

Now, a new study published in Science on Thursday details a new process that could allow us to recycle these plastics that typically end up as waste that will take hundreds of years to degrade.

The study, which was led by researchers at NREL as part of the Bio-Optimized Technologies to Keep Thermoplastics out of Landfills and the Environment (BOTTLE) Consortium, presents a hybrid approach to recycling that utilizes both chemical and biological processes to try and repurpose plastics.


The Renewable Energy category has a tread on plastics recycling and the technologies under development. Eastman Chemical looks like the leader in PET plastic recycling. Building plants. Exxon Mobil is probably the leader in pyrolysis technology to convert polyethylene and polypropylene into hydrocarbon fraction for cycling to oil refineries where they can be used to make plastics or as fuel ingredients. Their plant at Bayway, TX is due on line soon.

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Does this process work with mixed paper & plastic packaging like juice boxes? I read both the linked article and the abstract in Science. I couldn’t tell.