The Queen’s University in Belfast is developing innovative ways of converting single-use plastics.
Milk bottles, storage tanks and various sporting goods could soon be made from recycled single-use plastics.
This eclectic range of items are just some of the products that university researchers say could help make a dent in the more than 300 million tonnes of plastic waste produced every year, much of which ends up in the ocean.
Innovative ways of converting single-use plastics are being developed at Queen’s University in Belfast, including a ground-breaking approach known as rotational moulding.
The technique has the potential to recycle very large volumes of plastic waste into a wide variety of products, including urban furniture, kayaks and canoes.
Experts at the university’s Polymer Processing Research Centre are leading the research, working with industrial partners Impact Laboratories in Scotland, Impact Recycling in England and Harlequin Plastics in Northern Ireland.
The project is also backed by the government-funded Innovate UK.
Dr Peter Martin explained: “The process starts with flakes of waste plastics being separated and compounded into pellets using the patented technologies of Impact Laboratories and Impact Recycling.
“At Queen’s we take these pellets and grind them into a fine powder, which is then blended with a proportion of new plastic, heated to over 200C, and then cooled within a mould to transform it into the shape of a new product.”
Once the technique has been completely optimised, it is expected that recycled waste could replace around 30% of the new plastic that would have been required for an individual product.
Mark Kearns, moulding research manager at the Queen’s centre, said the process would provide “significant environmental benefits” as there would be far less waste ending up in landfills, rivers and the ocean.
He added: “It will also help to reduce the quantity of pure polyethylene used in the process, ushering in a new and more sustainable era in the production of rotationally moulded plastics.”
Sky’s Ocean Rescue campaign encourages people to reduce their single-use plastics. You can find out more about the campaign and how to get involved at skyoceanrescue.com