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UK company uses water to break down the bonds in waste plastic

UK company uses water to break down the bonds in waste plastic. Advanced plastic waste recycling technologies can tolerate mixed plastics and films, which can’t be handled through traditional mechanical recycling.

A UK company, Mura Technology uses water heated to supercritical temperatures to break down the bonds in waste plastic, instead of combusting the plastic itself.

The company’s first commercial-scale plant, at Wilton on Teesside, will open later this year, recycling an initial 20,000 tonnes per year of plastic waste, such as films, pots, tubs and trays, which are currently sent to landfill or incinerated.

Geoff Brighty, the UK company’s chief sustainability officer, told that Mura’s HydroPRS technology works in a similar way to pyrolysis, which is the thermal processing of a substance in the absence of air. But instead of applying heat directly to plastics, it heats water under supercritical conditions to crack the polymeric material in plastic back into short-chain hydrocarbons.

The process doesn’t create the same harmful byproducts, such as dioxins, “and helps to maximise higher product yields” of recycled plastics. The system is tolerant of mixed, contaminated plastic waste, including polystyrene and agricultural plastic waste.

Besides producing different grades of plastic, one byproduct of the process is a heavy wax residue, the result of stripping off the waxes in waste plastic packaging.

“It’s effectively a bitumen binder that can be used to decarbonise road-making," said Brighty.

Mura has partnered with large chemicals companies including Dow and Chevron Phillips Chemical, which has an equity stake, and has a pipeline of projects in Europe and the U.S

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