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Plastic Pact leads to more circular plastics

21 Feb 2019

Today, more than 100 parties in the Netherlands, including TNO, signed up to the Plastic Pact during the National Circular Economy Conference. The aim is to get reusable and exclusively recyclable plastic products and packaging onto the market as much as possible. TNO conducts research into techniques for the chemical recycling of plastics and the design of reusable plastics. This can cut annual CO2 emissions by at least 1 million tonnes.

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“There are too many plastics that we currently burn and do not make the most of. As TNO our goal is to keep plastics in the value chain as long as possible, and thus reducing the use of fossil oil for plastic production. We achieve this by using them for longer and making them easier to maintain. This should contribute to our objective of reducing Dutch industry’s CO2 footprint,” says Marinke Wijngaard of TNO during the conference organised by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management.

Lifespan, circular chain design and circular plastics

TNO's Circular Economy & Environment unit contributes to the objectives of the Plastic Pact by developing tools that provide insight into the consequences of changing material use. The impact on the environment and the economy, among other things, is taken into account. TNO is also investigating issues such as extending the life span of circular plastics, designing plastics to fit better into a circular economy (value chain design) and developing circular plastics, through chemical recycling technology, among other ways. In the long term, this could reduce the use of new raw materials for plastic production by 3 million barrels of oil per year. TNO's focus is mainly on the building & infrastructure sectors and the plastics (related) industry.

Reclaiming polymers through chemical recycling

TNO's research activities in Delft are a first example of research into circular plastics and chemical recycling. There, the organisation is working on a technology in which high pressure, and the heat that is released during this process, cause plastic polymers to separate from all kinds of additives contained in plastics, such as dyes, flame retardants and fillers. Because no combustion takes place, the polymers remain of high quality and can be used directly for the plastic production.

Chemical recycling as pre-process for existing refining processes

A second method for chemical recycling of plastics is being developed at the TNO location in Petten. Low-grade plastics, largely plastics from electronics along with household waste and packaging materials that cannot be mechanically recycled, are gassed with very little oxygen. These are then broken down into raw materials suitable for processing in existing refining processes where they are converted into raw materials for new plastics using crackers.

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