From plastic waste to circular plastics

Reduced plastic waste, fewer CO2 emissions and less use of fossil raw materials: to achieve this, TNO is conducting independent research into circular plastics, from innovations for new plastic product designs to sustainable technologies for recycling plastics.

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Circular plastics

Due to its versatile properties, such as strength, flexibility and low weight, the use of plastic continues to increase. Between now and 2050, this usage is expected to rise from 350 million tonnes to more than one billion. Reasons include population growth and increased prosperity in Africa and Asia, the use of more/smaller packaging and social developments such as urbanisation and family composition. This leads to major challenges – such as plastic waste, the use of fossil raw materials and CO2 emissions – that require a system transition.

Circular plastics

TNO is eager to contribute to solutions. For the transition to circular plastics, we’re taking a close look at the entire chain: from the influence of scenarios on CO2 emissions and the use of materials to health and economic feasibility. To this end, we’re combining our expertise in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and Life Cycle Costing (LCC) with technological knowledge of recycling techniques. TNO makes the right (system) choices on the basis of impact assessments, with economic, ecological and social value retention within the chain serving as the guiding force.

Laboratory research and recommendations

Because successful recycling begins with a good design, we develop short, medium and long-term plans for circular plastics. We do this through a combination of laboratory research, pilot tests and recommendations. We’re also developing technologies to improve sorting and mechanical recycling. At the Brightlands Materials Center, we’re developing new packaging which is more recyclable. In the public-private partnership Brightsite, meanwhile, we’re creating industrial demos in the field of chemical recycling, for example.

Chemical and thermochemical recycling of plastics

In addition, TNO is developing technologies to chemically recycle plastics through depolymerisation and dissolution so that polymers or monomers can be separated from additives such as flame retardants. Finally, we’re focusing on pyrolysis, also known as thermochemical recycling. Through this, waste plastics are transformed into new building blocks to produce new circular plastics. We develop sensors to monitor and optimise these processes.

TNO Insights

Pyrolysis: recycling mattresses at molecular level

16 September 2020
Some 1.2 million mattresses are disposed of every year in the Netherlands. Rather a lot. And recycling them is not easy; consequently, most old mattresses end up in the incinerator. This results in CO2... Read more
TNO Insights

Two highly promising methods for recycling plastic packaging

01 September 2020
The main advantage of plastic is its great versatility, and the fact that it can be produced so cheaply. However, its disadvantage is that, once it has been used, it is very difficult to recycle because... Read more

European Plastic Pact to tackle plastic waste

06 March 2020
TNO signed up to the European Plastic Pact. TNO has already signed the Dutch Plastic Pact in 2019. The aim of the Dutch Plastic Pact is to reach a 20% reduction in plastic by 2025 and more recycling and... Read more

Closing the loop for plastics leads to cleaner, healthier and smarter future in Indonesia

12 March 2020
Plastic waste has become a nationwide problem in Indonesia. Improper solid waste management activities – which include inadequate source handling, collection and transportation and uncontrolled disposal... Read more

Clean and healthy environment and climate

Models and small sensors that measure and predict exposure to particulate matter, microplastics and noise as well as large-scale satellite observations to identify harmful substances in the atmosphere,... Read more
Circular economy

Dr. ir. Robert de Ruiter

Be inspired by TNO Insights about Circular Economy


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