Canadian plant tests better way recycle plastic

Canadian plant tests better way to recycle plastic

4:40 PM, 1st July 2011
Canadian plant tests better way to recycle plastic

ALBERTA, CANADA: A small Canadian company is trying to change the way some plastic is recycled with a pilot plant that will test a new process to reuse the polystyrene that makes coffee cups, food trays and packing material.

Switchable Solutions Inc, a joint venture commercializing the new recycling method, said its industrial scale pilot should begin operation in about a year. It will be able to recycle 2,000 tonne of polystyrene a year in a process the company said is more environmentally friendly than existing methods.

“Currently polystyrene is just being thrown out with landfill, which we think is a crime,” said Philip Jessop, Chemistry Professor, Queen’s University in Kingston, who invented the new technology.

Polystyrene is difficult to recycle because it contains so much air and tends to be contaminated with food waste and chemicals. “It’s bad because it takes a lot of energy and because it needs the solvent to be volatile. There’s fire risk, flammability, smog formation risk, inhalation hazards to the workers,” said Jessop.

His reusable solvent only needs room-temperature exposure to carbon dioxide and air. It’s an idea that works in a beaker, but it is not ready for industrial application, he added.

The Mississauga, plant will determine if Jessop’s invention is viable for large-scale recycling. It is a joint venture involving several businesses and non-profit organizations, including GreenCentre Canada, which commercializes green chemistry from universities, and Fielding Chemical Technologies Inc, which will host the plant on one of its existing solvent recycling sites.

Mark Badger, CEO of the new company, said the used polystyrene will likely come from municipal recycling programmes. Recovered plastic will be sold on to companies that manufacture such things as food containers and packaging materials.

The specifics of Jessop’s technology are proprietary, but Mohini Mohan Sain, a professor who develops more sustainable plastics at the University of Toronto, said the announcements so far were encouraging.

He said using carbon dioxide in this kind of application is nothing new, but others have only used it in “supercritical” form, a state between a liquid and a gas that requires a lot of energy, compared with Jessop’s process, which uses carbon dioxide gas bubbled into water.

© The Edmonton Journal

 

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