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This week we are stressing the importance of innovation in the area of plastic recycling. Environmental awareness is becoming increasingly popular amongst consumers, thus besides protecting the environment, recycling creates new economic opportunities and increases brand equity. Materials that are still useful are kept away from the landfill, while businesses can develop new and innovative products out of them.

Problem Statement: The world produces more than 330 million tons of plastic each year, a lot of which ends up as waste. Since the beginning of mass production in the 1950’s, over 8 billion tons of plastic waste has been accumulated in landfills and natural environments. It can take up to 1,000 years for plastic to decompose. This huge accumulation of plastic in the environment adversely affects human and wildlife. Shortage in landfill space, growing regulation and environmental awareness are driving innovation in the plastic recycling market. It’s a big business and the current recycling technologies are limited and the habit of exporting waste to be burnt in China is certainly not sustainable.

Scope for Innovation: There are three main plastic waste recycling technologies that are currently being used. About 8% of annual waste produced is mechanically recycled, 12% is treated by incineration processes, some is chemically recycled and the rest is landfilled. The solution of choice is Mechanical Recycling. It is about cleaning, grinding and heating without changing the chemical structure of the plastic. This approach is restricted to a few plastic forms. The second approach – Incineration, is also problematic. The third approach is Chemical Recycling, which converts plastic to fuel (PTF) and requires high temperatures and hence a lot of energy, large facilities and tends to be economically inefficient.

Our Solution of the Week innovates Chemical Recycling – PlasticBack has developed a unique and proprietary technology of plastic waste chemical recycling at far lower temperatures than current processes. It can become a key in reducing plastic waste worldwide. Using chemical oxidation technology, PlasticBack is able to convert plastic waste (back) to crude oil and valuable chemicals which can be used to create new plastics and alternative fuels.

Why This Matters: The uniqueness of the technology is the ability to function at low temperatures below 100 degrees, unlike the competition, which operates at much high temperatures between 600 and 1000 degrees. In addition, PlasticBack is capable of converting high density forms of plastics. The economical and sustainable benefits of the technology are enormous.

Prizes: This Israeli startup has been named “Israel’s most promising circular technology startup”, won runners- up in Shell’s prestigious New Energy Challenge, and has been recognized by the European Climate KIC.