A pair of Australian scientists believe they have invented the technology that can recycle any type of plastic.
Len Humphreys and Sydney University professor Thomas Maschmeyer told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday that the patented device they developed can process plastics that currently cannot be recycled.
The so-called Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR) has the ability to turn disposed plastic into fuel or remade new plastic through a process of chemical recycling that changes the plastics at a molecular level and then turns them back into oil, Humphreys told ABC.
“What we’re doing is we’re simply taking those materials and converting them back to the liquids and the chemicals they came from,” he said, adding that the products can be transformed into bitumen, petrol or different kinds of plastic.
ABC noted that the process is distinct from physical recycling in that it does not require one to separate plastics according to type or color. The patented technology can also reportedly recycle everything from milk cartons to wetsuits.
The company Licella is preparing to push the technology into the market in the United Kingdom. Humphreys said the decision to open in the UK was because its environmental policies are more favorable than Australia’s.
“They incentivize the market,” Humphreys, Licella’s co-founder and chief executive officer, said. “We don’t do that here. We’re not incentivizing the market here..”
The technology’s emergence comes as Australia and countries around the globe grapple with ways to reduce waste. ABC noted that only 10 percent of the 3.5 tons of plastic thrown away each year is recycled.
For its part, Australia in 2018 cut down on its single-plastic bag use by about 80 percent in the span of three months after major supermarket chains enforced bans on them, according to the National Retail Association.