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Making the grade


 New sorting and decontamination processes to close the loop on foodgrade polypropylene

The direct impact of waste management sits at the heart of climate change. Global waste currently generates over 1.3Bt of CO2e. More than half of possible CO2e savings from waste will come from increased recycling rates and increased recycled content. A report by the PEW Charitable Trust, Breaking the Plastic Wave, has estimated that by significantly improving waste collection, sorting and recycling we can reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by between 2.1-2.8Bt of CO2e per year compared with ‘business as usual’.

However, we can only minimise our waste once we actively start unlocking the value in these materials. Realistically, we cannot eliminate plastic from the supply chain, and even if we did, that would not solve the world’s climate crisis. Quite the contrary.

According to the US Environment Protection Agency and their Waste Reduction Model (WARM), if all the 37.4Mt of single-family recyclables were put back to productive use instead of lost to disposal, it would reduce US GHG emissions by 96Mt of CO2e. It would also conserve an annual energy equivalent of 154MMbbl of oil and achieve the equivalent of taking more than 20 million cars off US highways – not to mention generating an estimated 370,000 full-time equivalent jobs. And that is just in the US, where the rate of plastics recycling is low – falling between 5-6% in 2021, according to the 15th version of WARM.

There is no one solution to claw back our waste or reduce our carbon footprint. As such, we urgently need to combine high-impact solutions from numerous different pathways. We need to boost adoption of simple and sound recycling practices, expanding waste collection, recovering recyclables from waste and ensuring that final disposal processes prevent plastic leakage.

This is from a feature published in Materials World. Read the rest here