A headline on these pages last year proclaimed wishcycling won’t protect the planet but a new innovation being pioneered in Finland might just put plastics on the road to a circular future.
In developing a ‘process that can affordably convert most of the world’s waste plastics back to usable virgin grade materials an infinite number of times’, Olefy Technologies, a spin out from the world-renowned VTT research institute, offers a breakthrough solution in plastics recycling. One that could finally shift the needle on the rather static 8% or so of plastics recycled annually.
“Olefy is a quantum leap in recycling that will change the way the world views plastic by making it truly circular and guiding us even faster towards carbon neutrality,” says Antti Vasara, CEO of VTT.
Being able to recycle an infinite number of times while maintaining the quality each time is a game changer.
“One of the problems with current recycling methods is that the quality degrades every time plastic is recycled. After several rounds of mechanical recycling, the quality becomes too poor, and the plastic is no longer usable and goes to a landfill. With the Olefy recycling process, the quality of the plastic is equal to virgin grade, so it can be recycled indefinitely and materials no longer need to end up in landfills,” says Matti Nieminen, Head of Technology at Olefy. “In essence, Olefy will make it possible for plastic to be a true part of the circular economy.”
Another advantage to the process is it can be done without using Naphtha, a crude oil product typically used to manufacture plastic.
“The economic benefits of having virgin grade components from recycled materials can completely change the dynamic of global oil consumption. Olefy will significantly reduce the need to use new oil for making plastic and maybe even create a new economic incentive to clean up plastic from land and water as it becomes a valued commodity,” adds Nieminen.
The Olefy pilot is currently running successfully at a VTT centre in Finland and the company is now in discussion with potential partners and investors, with the first industrial demonstration operation due to be operational by 2026.