Closing the loop

Safely recycling end-of-life plastics to create a range of useful materials

Plastic waste is one of the most polluting and harmful by-products of human activity.

A system that safely disposes of plastic whilst deriving useful products from it would be an ideal solution to our current environmental crisis.

Our collaboration with Plastic Energy is helping to facilitate a process that does just that. Our bespoke rigs have 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 technology converts end-of-life plastic waste into an optimal feedstock (TACOIL) for making clean recycled plastics (Plastic2Plastic).
  • For every tonne of end-of-life plastic waste processed, it produces 850 litres of TACOIL.
  • The company is signed up to The New Plastics Economy Global Commitment which pledges to convert 300,000 tonnes of plastic waste into feedstock for new plastic manufacturing by 2025.
  • Since April 2020, all TACOIL has been used to create new plastics, which benefits the circular economy.

Wide technology take-up

  • Plastic Energy can reliably supply major oil companies.
  • Leading polymer producer SABIC and its customers – use Plastic Energy’s feedstock.

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 rig to replicate the company’s pyrolysis 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 products – including diesel, gas and a novel light oil, TACOIL, which can be up-cycled into new polymers for the production of virgin plastic, suitable for food use.

Plastic Energy’s Plastic2Plastic process reduces the environmental impact of plastic production and end-of-life processing. Widespread adoption will reduce our carbon footprint 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

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

Commercialisation

Our research underpins Plastic Energy’s patented technology which is leading the way in disposing of plastic waste safely and productively.