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UpCycle: An innovative way to improved plastic recycling

UpCycle: An innovative way to improved plastic recycling

UpCycle: An innovative way to improved plastic recycling

Honeywell UOP has developed Advanced Recycling Technology fundamental in helping to achieve plastic circularity. 

From plastic bottles, bags, takeout containers, to even single-use face masks, plastic is in almost everything we use in our daily lives. As demand for plastics continues to rise, with commensurate increase in generation of waste plastics, the world will look to new modes of recycling to help retain valuable plastics circulating within the economy as long as possible.

Despite ongoing global recycling efforts, only between 10 to 14% of plastic is actually recycled through conventional means. Most of the plastic recycling is done through a mechanical process that involves the melting down and re-pelletizing of waste plastics. The plastic that is not suitable for mechanical recycling is usually disposed of in landfills or incinerators. Plastics that end up in landfills often leak back into the environment or potentially leach microplastics into soil and groundwater, and can take up to a thousand years to decompose. Incinerators release the carbon embedded in waste plastics to the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas. The typical ways of plastic disposal are relics of a linear economy. New plastics recycling approaches can support a circular economy for plastics, such that less fossil feed is required to meet plastics demand, and overall CO2 emissions are reduced relative to conventional waste handling or virgin plastics production. As an expert in commercializing chemical process technology, Honeywell is ready to tackle the global challenge of plastic waste through advanced chemical recycling.

The Honeywell UOP UpCycle Process and Recycled Polymer Feedstock (RPF) are the future of plastics circularity. Honeywell’s technology converts waste plastic into Recycled Polymer Feedstock or RPF. The process breaks down waste plastic into molecules, RPF, that are similar in composition to fossil feedstocks used to make virgin plastics. As such, RPF is an excellent replacement feedstock for the existing petrochemicals production infrastructure, reducing the amount of fossil feedstocks needed to meet plastics demand, and producing recycled plastics with exactly the same quality as conventional virgin plastics. By combining UpCycle with other chemical and mechanical recycling processes, and improvements in collection and sorting, it is possible to recycle 90% of waste plastics. UpCycle is capable of recycling multiple types and formats of plastics, including polyolefins and polystyrene, such as plastic films, flexible packaging, and industrial plastic waste. UpCycle also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. New recycled plastics made with RPF produced in UpCycle have about half the CO2 footprint as plastics made from fossil feeds1.

The use of advanced recycling technologies, such as UpCycle is vital to address the plastic waste problem. With Honeywell UOP’s years of expertise in research and development, and continuous technological innovations leading to outcomes such as the UpCycle Process, the circular economy for plastics is closer to being within reach.

1Honeywell Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), September 2021. The LCA results are calculated by Honeywell UOP in accordance with international standards for life cycle assessment, ISO 14040:2006 and 14044:2006. The LCA is pending critical review.