Plastic waste in nature. Photo: Colourbox

Big research project to put a stop to plastic waste

Wednesday 17 Jun 20
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Contact

Jesper Ahrenfeldt
Senior Scientist
DTU Chemical Engineering
+45 21 32 53 44

Contact

Thomas Fruergaard Astrup
Professor
DTU Environment
+45 45 25 15 58

Facts about the project

  • Partners: DTU Chemical Engineering, DTU Environment, RUC IMT, Plastic4oil, PolyLoop, NKT, Amager Ressource Center, HCS.
  • Investment from Innovation Fund Denmark: 8.9 million DKK.
  • Overall budget: 12.7 million DKK.
  • Duration: 3 years (04/01/2020 – 03/31/2023).
  • Title: RePlastic – Thermal recycling of plastic waste reject.

See press release (in Danish). 


The project is looking into new technological ways of reproducing new high quality plastics from non-recyclable plastic waste.

Enormous amounts of plastic are produced globally every year – and a large percentage is thrown away. In Europe alone, we generate 26 million tons of plastic waste each year, but less than 30 per cent of this is recycled. It is too dirty, mixed or degraded to be a direct part of the production of new plastic.

We are already using pyrolysis today – the chemical decomposition of a material using heat in the absence of oxygen – to break down plastics and create fuels. However, it would be far more sustainable if it was also possible to use this technology to recycle new plastics from plastic waste from households and industry.

The raw material for plastic is oil, so if you break down plastic waste into oil, you can produce new plastic. It may be possible today by using pyrolysis, but the process must be significantly optimized if several plastic types are to be broken down effectively.

The research project RePlastic, led by DTU Chemical Engineering, has received 8.9 million DKK from Innovation Fund Denmark to do exactly this.

“When you sort your plastics and hand it in, you expect it to be reused. We want to realize this expectation far more than is the case today. Therefore, our goal is to recycle as much new plastic as possible from the many plastic fractions falling through the cracks in the current recycling system,” says Senior Researcher Jesper Ahrenfeldt from DTU Chemical Engineering who is heading the project.

A task for both science and industry

RePlastic is a broad cooperation between two universities, DTU and RUC, and five industrial partners. From RUC, the Department of People and Technology is involved, and from DTU, two centres on DTU Chemical Engineering and DTU Environment are part of the project.

The primary industrial partner is P4O, or Plastic4oil, who specializes in transforming plastic waste into different types of oil that the industry can reuse in the production of new plastic products.

“A project like this has great value for us. With RePlastic, we can secure a foundation for processing and reusing many more types of waste than before at our own plants – to the benefit of us all,” says Niels Bagge, CEO at Plastic4oil.

From waste sorting and back to the consumer

The problem of large quantities of non-reusable plastic is here and now, and therefore, there is a pressing need to come up with a good solution. The goal of the research project is to create a technological solution that is also commercially viable within just a few years.

“It is essential that the entire value chain is considered in the project right from the start so that we can get the solutions on the market as fast as possible. We already start from where the plastic is collected and think through the whole process from treatment and pyrolysis to the new product,” Jesper Ahrenfeldt from DTU Chemical Engineering explains.

Besides P4O, the involved industrial partners are Amager Resource Center, NKT, PolyLoop and HCS, and the project includes an advisory board with members from Københavns Kommune, Plastindustrien and AffaldPlus.

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