Innovations in recycling

4 November 2020

One of the great things to come out of the Covid-19 lockdown is the opportunity to access online conversations which might have been inaccessible to us previously.  This could be down to the fact that we are not a member of the group having the conversation, or we might not be able to justify a whole day out of the office to attend a seminar, or the costs of travel might be prohibiting.  One such opportunity came up this month where I joined a live webinar put on by Recoup.  


MoDiP has lots of objects made with recycled material. AIBDC: 005940

Recoup is a charity that aims to lead and inform the continued development of plastics recycling and resource management; be the UK's plastic value chain co-ordinators and the independent voice of reason; and educate the public and businesses on the recycling of plastics to protect the environment.

The webinar I attended was looking at Innovation and the Future of Plastics Recycling and was part of a series of conversations relating to plastics recycling and resources all of which can be watched again on the Recoup website and I look forward to watching the others as this was such an informative webinar.

Innovation and the Future of Plastics Recycling was chaired by Jim Harvey, Innovation Lead Industrial Carbonisation, Innovate UK/UKRI and brought together 3 pairs of speakers – 2 who were talking about the identification of plastics materials for recycling, and the third talking about the chemical recycling of plastics and their subsequent use in technical clothing.

The first pairing, Gian De Belder, Technical Director, R&D Packaging Sustainability, P&G and An Vossen, Executive Manager, Plarabel, spoke about a really interesting project, HolyGrail 2.0, which explores the use of adding digital watermarks to plastics either in mould or through imperceptible printed coding across the whole item so that it is easy to read by sorting machines.  This technology would also help recycling sorters to see black and transparent plastics which the current systems find difficult. The resultant ‘intelligent’ packaging could be sorted further including separating food grade from non-food grade material adding value to the end recyclate.  The project is continuing to create a standardised digital watermark database, encourage consumer engagement and work on the commercialisation of the process.  More can be seen in this news report

The second pair of speakers, Marina Leed, Senior Sustainability Manager and Amy Sandhu, Head of Sustainability and Government Relations, both of BASF Canada were speaking about their project ReciChain.  The aim of this project is to keep the value of plastics materials in the circular economy.  The plan is for the material to have an embedded digital tracer, the material can then be traced as it makes its way around the circular loop from the manufacturer or packaging through to the consumer and on to the recycler.  The tracer could then be linked to credits which would gain value with each additional time the material goes around the loop.

The last pairing was Rob Webbon, CEO, Presca and Dr Martin Atkins, CEO, Poseidon Plastics who were talking about the sustainable issues presented by the fashion industry.  The fashion industry is the 3rd most polluting sector (behind fuel and agriculture), it is a traditionally take-make-waste industry, and creates 10% global emissions.  Presca make sports clothing and their project with Poseidon aims to create good quality cycling and triathlon clothing out of recycled polyester (including PET bottles).  To make good quality recycled yarn for clothing Poseidon chemically recycle all kinds of polyester including fabrics by depolymerising the material back to its monomer state.  I found it really interesting to hear that there is a lot of titanium in white textiles and this resource can be recaptured and made use of.  Following this talk I have acquired one of Presca’s Forever T-shirts for the MoDiP collection due to its sustainable credentials which includes the tightknit fabric, made from 100% recycled bottles.  This type of fabric construction has an increased resilience and reduces the shedding of microfibres during washing.

All of these projects with focus on sustainability were fascinating, I will definitely go back to some of the other webinars that are part of the series.

Louise Dennis, Curator of MoDiP