Founder and CEO of Plastic Energy
A new recycling process is able to convert valueless plastic waste into recycled oil, which can then be used to make high-quality plastic products and packaging. This is the circular economy in action, directly preventing plastic pollution.
Is plastic a hero — or a villain? For Carlos Monreal, Founder and CEO of Plastic Energy, a global company developing a new technology to help prevent plastic pollution, it has the potential to be both.
“Plastic has many applications and can solve many problems,” he says. “It can keep medicines sterile in healthcare settings and keep produce fresher for longer in the food industry; and it is a lightweight and versatile material. So, plastic can be a hero. But plastic waste is often considered a villain. However, if we can find a solution to redesign, reuse, or recycle plastic, it will truly become a hero again. Because, getting rid of plastic altogether is just not possible – or desirable, either, given all the benefits it has.”
We take plastic waste, melt it at high temperature and, ultimately, obtain recycled oil, which is purified and sold to the petrochemical industry.
Making hard-to-recycle plastics part of the circular economy
Traditionally, there has been a big issue concerning the recyclability of some plastics. For a variety of reasons, companies often design complex plastics from multiple compounds that cannot be mechanically recycled. But, now, a ‘disruptive’ solution, called chemical recycling, has been developed to complement mechanical recycling and overcome some of its limitations, and to divert these plastics away from incineration, landfills, or our environment.
“We take plastic waste, melt it at high temperature and, ultimately, obtain recycled oil, which is purified and sold to the petrochemical industry,” explains Monreal. “It effectively replaces the virgin oil used to make plastic products. This Plastic2Plastic process will increase recycling rates and the recycled content in high-quality products to ‘close the loop’ and create a circular economy. And the process is endless: when plastic with recycled content is turned back into waste, we can recycle it again.”
The solution is already proven with two operational and commercial plants in Spain, the ISCC+ certification of the Plastic2Plastic process, and long-term agreements with global partners to build more large-scale plants.
Only possible with value-chain collaboration and policies in line with innovations
“The petrochemical industry is looking for innovations to fulfil the demand from brand owners to have recycled content especially in high-quality food-grade packaging,” says Monreal. “So there’s a whole value chain needed to drive this change and build a new industry. We are already seeing ambitious commitments from brand owners and regulations from governments or the EU going in the good direction. But we need much more to deploy innovative solutions to make plastic circular and prevent plastic pollution. And chemical recycling is one.”