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Pyrolysis: Revolutionising Recycling

Most of the EU’s plastic and rubber waste isn’t recycled. 40% is incinerated & another 30% is dumped into landfills. Both methods are quick and easy but are increasingly seen as dirty solutions to an ever-growing problem. With plastic production set to double over the next 20 years, it is important to find sustainable alternative solutions which can handle the increased demands of the future. One promising solution is a recycling process called pyrolysis.

Pyrolysis is an up and coming technology that is set to truly disrupt the recycling industry. This clever high temperature chemical process is low carbon and can tackle a very wide number of plastic and rubber waste types. In fact, pyrolysis is set to contribute to 30% of total recycling processes by 2030. All of this makes for an exciting, greener future.

The pyrolysis technology we are developing at BIG ATOM converts your waste tyres into new everyday products. The process involves using heat (which we get from low carbon sources) to break down the tyres into a variety of different components. One such component can be used to make things like plastic bottles and paint adhesives. So next time you are painting your house or having a soft drink, remember that a tyre might have gone into making it! This whole process is all part of creating a Circular Economy, where all waste is reprocessed into something new.

You might be asking yourself ‘how can we control what exact products are being formed?’ The main method to controlling what products are produced is by varying the temperature. By varying the temperature for pyrolysis, the chemicals within the tyre get broken down into different types of components. This means that even a slight change in temperature will yield a completely different set of products.

Another method for controlling the types of products being formed is changing the amount of time the tyres stay inside the chemical reactor. The longer the tyres spend in the reactor, the more they will get broken down. Being able to control these factors makes pyrolysis an extremely versatile process which can adapt to the changing market conditions.

This blog post is the first of a series for 2020 to help you understand the technology we are developing here at BIG ATOM.

Moiz Paracha

Chemical Engineer


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