Plastic is a fantastic material with many beneficial applications and has become part of our everyday lives. For this reason, forecasts suggest that up to a billion tonnes could be produced every year by 2050. However, just 12% of the plastic that is produced today is recycled. The majority of plastic is either landfilled, incinerated or leaked into the environment, as seen through the rising levels of plastic in our oceans.
Given technological challenges with current recycling methods, new solutions are required to solve this growing problem, and chemical recycling is becoming recognised as a key component in the transition from a linear economy to a circular economy, decoupling plastic production from fossil-fuel sources and recovering value from plastic waste.
Chemical recycling is the broad term used to describe a range of emerging technologies that allow plastics that are either technically difficult to process or uneconomic to recover, to be recycled.
By turning plastic waste back into base chemicals and chemical feedstocks, chemical recycling processes have the potential to dramatically improve recycling rates and divert plastic waste from landfill or incineration.
Converts residual plastic waste, that would normally be landfilled or incinerated, into oil that can be used by the petrochemical industry as the feedstock for producing virgin quality plastic.
Cracks long polymer molecules back into the monomer building block, for example polystyrene into styrene, from which more polystyrene can be produced.
RT7000: feedstock recycling
The RT7000 is our proprietary technology which transforms plastic waste into chemical feedstock, called Plaxx®, which can be used in the manufacture of new, virgin quality plastic. The machine uses a process called thermal cracking to break down long chains of polymers into shorter chains through the use of heat in the absence of oxygen.
The RT7000 is built to integrate with existing mechanical recycling infrastructure, aiming to increase the overall recycling capacity of both methods. The RT7000 is designed to bring the solution to the problem, avoiding unnecessary transportation of plastic waste and associated carbon emissions.
Capable of processing a wide spectrum of plastics, including some biomass contamination. In-house developed intellectual property allows technology to evolve quickly. Patents granted for the process with additional patents filed.
The RT7000 is modular and designed for mass-manufacture, allowing for easy transportation in standard 20' ISO freight frames and quick onsite installation, facilitating integration with existing waste management infrastructure.
The RT7000 can process most types of plastics that are not routinely recycled, such as:
- Soft and flexible packaging (e.g. films)
- Multi-layered and laminated plastics (e.g. crisp packets)
- Complex or even contaminated plastic (e.g. food trays)
Plaxx is a hydrocarbon product which can substitute crude oil. It is a valuable chemical feedstock which, after refinement, can be used in the manufacturing of new virgin quality plastic.
Plaxx is not intended for use as fuel. It is a valuable building block in the circular economy and the plastics value chain, providing recycled content for new plastic products in line with governmental targets.
Fluidised Bed Reactor
Reactor is self-cleaning enabling residual plastics to be processed
Most scalable reactor technology allowing for flexibility in where it is used
Homogenous and fast heating rates give high yield of pyrolysis oil
Continuous process results in higher thermal efficiency
Monomer recycling is an advanced recycling technology that converts polystyrene waste back into its main building block, styrene, which can then be used to manufacture new polystyrene with identical properties to the virgin material.
RT are applying their patented fluidised bed reactor technology to monomer recycling to develop a scalable, high yield solution to polystyrene waste.
The first RT7000
The first RT7000 commercial-scale unit will be installed at Binn Eco Park in Perth, Scotland. This is a collaboration with Scottish waste management company Binn Group, supported by Zero Waste Scotland and Innovate UK, backed by major petrochemical Neste, and major UK wax manufacturer Kerax.
Polystyrene recycling with INEOS Styrolution
INEOS Styrolution is the leading global styrenics supplier, and has selected RT as the technology provider for monomer recycling following a competitive process. RT’s fluidised bed reactor technology demonstrated an offer of excellent scalability making it the technology of choice for future large recycling plants.
A Joint Technology Agreement has been reached to further advance the development of the solution, including the design and build of a polystyrene recycling pilot plant, which will provide data and operational experience for developing a full scale plant.
Lead by the French compliance body, Citeo, Project Fuscia is a first of its kind consortium project trialling the technical and economic feasibility of recycling complex plastic waste in France. The consortium brings together major players across the plastics value chain, including Total, Nestlé and Mars, with Recycling Technologies as the technology provider.
In 2016 we collaborated with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation on a multi-partner initiative, Project Lodestar, which conceptualised an advanced Plastics Recycling Facility (a-PRF). It combined mechanical recycling with chemical (feedstock) recycling and found that this could increase the rate of plastics kept in circulation, diverting them away from waste while bringing economic advantages over landfilling and incineration.
The Alliance to End Plastic Waste and Recycling Technologies are partnering to evaluate the feasibility of using chemical recycling technologies to complement the implementation of a new general waste recycling facility in East Java, Indonesia.
The project aims to implement our proprietary modular chemical recycling unit to convert mechanically hard-to-recycle plastics into Plaxx® that can be used as a feedstock for plastic production.
The story so far
Thermal cracking process development was conceptualised in 2011, with a bench-scale proof-of-concept demonstrated in 2013.
Having been continually upgraded over its lifetime, the MKII remains a valuable research & development asset today.
Pilot Plant - First Generation
The RT700 was the first near-commercial scale demonstration unit, and was brought into operation in 2016.
The first barrel of Plaxx was produced shortly thereafter, before the plant was relocated to Swindon Borough Council’s Household Recycling Centre later that year.
Pilot Plant - Second Generation
Technological development led to the commissioning of the Beta plant v1.0 in 2017 with significant upgrades.
Pilot Plant - Third Generation
Beta plant upgraded to v2.0 in 2019.
This version provides the design blueprint for the full-scale RT7000.
Future technology upgrades will continue to be trialled on the Beta plant before being deployed at commercial scale.