Closing the loop on plastics

Recycling end-of-life plastics to create a range of useful products and packaging

Plastic waste is one of the most polluting man-made materials to our oceans and wider environment.

A system that processes plastic waste whilst deriving useful building blocks from it, reduces plastic pollution and can provide a solution to our current environmental crisis.

Our collaboration with Plastic Energy is helping to facilitate their unique TAC™ process that does just that. Our bespoke model has refined the company’s technology – and been key to the safe processing of a wider range of plastics alongside a more controlled production of useful materials.

Our impact

Plastic Energy’s achievements

  • Patented and proven recycling technology converts end-of-life plastic waste into an optimal feedstock (TACOIL™) for making clean recycled plastics used for food-grade packaging.
  • For every tonne of end-of-life plastic waste processed in Plastic Energy’s plants, hundreds of litres of TACOIL™ are produced.
  • The company is a signatory of the Ellen Macarthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment - which is a commitment for using all TACOIL™ from its process to create new plastics, benefitting the circular economy.
  • Plastic Energy has a goal to recycle five million tonnes of plastic waste by 2030.

Wide technology take-up

  • Plastic Energy has offtake agreements with many of the major petrochemical companies in the industry.
  • Leading polymer producer SABIC uses Plastic Energy’s feedstock to create recycled polymers that can be incorporated by brands into food-grade packaging.

The research

Our multidisciplinary collaboration with Plastic Energy began in 2015 and draws on our expertise in materials analysis and characterisation as well as our hands-on process design and management capabilities.

The first phase of the work was the design and build of a small-scale model to replicate the company’s chemical recycling system, but with additional analytical sampling points to assess the plastic conversion process in real-time.

This allowed us to refine and optimise the process, identify and eliminate contaminants, and ensure consistent TACOIL which can be up-cycled into polymers for the production of virgin-quality plastic, suitable for food use.

Plastic Energy’s patented TAC™ process reduces the environmental impact of plastic production and end-of-life processing. Widespread adoption will reduce resource depletion and help to curb pollution.

Research funder

  • Plastic Energy

Development partners

  • Plastic Energy

Meet the experts

Photograph of Steve Christie

Professor Steve Christie

Professor of Chemical Technologies

Photograph of Paul Thomas

Professor Paul Thomas

Emeritus Professor of Analytical Science

Photograph of James Reynolds

Dr Jim Reynolds

Senior Lecturer in Analytical Chemistry

Photograph of Matthew Turner

Dr Matthew Turner

Lecturer in Analytical Science


Our research underpins Plastic Energy’s patented technology which is leading the way in the recycling of end-of-life plastics.