With concerns of global warming now rising and the devastating results of plastic pollution visible in every part of the ecosystem, the need for drastic action in reducing our carbon and plastic waste footprint is necessary now more than ever. Plastic materials increased in popularity within industry and society due to their low cost, lightweight and durable qualities. However, these same qualities are now causing exponential waste accumulation and negative environmental impacts that are shown daily on our TV screens. Legislation and regulations are rapidly changing to address to tackle the issue.
Policy makers in Europe and globally are strategically planning towards sustainable and circular strategies to combat plastic waste. For this purpose the European Commission (EC) is investing in the development of technologies that will aid the transition to circular economic models. Moving towards a circular economy has the potential to save the environment, establish new jobs, boost economies, secure sustainability of raw materials, and contribute to an improved quality of life for society. The ISOPREP project is currently addressing the issue of carpet waste accumulation.
Every year 1.6m tonnes of carpet waste are disposed in Europe alone, from this less than 3% is recycled. After the United States, Europe is the second biggest carpet market in the world. Carpet waste is just one plastic waste stream among many and a challenging one to recycle. The difficulty lies in the variable composition of carpets, since carpets can be made from a number of materials such as wool, jute, polyprolpylene, nylon, polyester and polyurethane with a typical carpet will be composed of many of these materials. Carpet recycling in most cases reported leads to material downcycling rather than true recycling. The ISOPREP project aims to provide a step-change, enabling the recycling of polypropylene recovered from carpets to virgin-like quality, removing colorants and pigments . The ISOPREP technology employs the use of sophisticated solvents that selectively solubilise the PP materials from waste carpets providing virgin-quality polypropylene. This recycled material will then be available to be fed back into the supply chain for manufacturing new components.
The ISOPREP technology employs the use of sophisticated solvents that selectively solubilise the PP materials from waste carpets providing virgin-quality PP for every use and purpose. In a process, by-products are carefully collected and managed and the chemicals used are recycled and reused. This not only makes the process itself eco-friendly but economically viable as well.
The consortium have proved the feasibility of this novel technology, is now constructing an experimental pilot plant capable of processing 1 tonne of waste carpet per day. This is a key step in reducing the global proliferation of non-biodegradable materials and will help the transition from a linear to a circular economic model.