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Novel Methods for the Recycling and Upcycling of Reclaimed Mixed Stream Polyesters

Novel Methods for the Recycling and Upcycling of Reclaimed Mixed Stream Polyesters

Investigator: Michigan State University

Start Date:
Apr 2021Award Amount:
$200,000Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic is widely used in various sectors and accounts for 26% of the total plastics that are used for packaging in the US. PET is the most recycled plastic, with a higher than average recycling rate compared to plastics as a whole. The recycled PET is mostly obtained from beverage bottles because of better collection infrastructure. A large portion of the recycled PET is downcycled (i.e. recycled into a lower quality material) because the process of recycling causes the PET to lose some of its physical properties related to strength. The downcycling of recycled PET not only increases the likelihood of the recycled PET products ending up in landfills, but it is also less profitable for manufacturers, which deters/hinders the recycling efforts.

The overall project goal is to develop novel additives that will divert >18 billion lbs/year of recycled PET from landfills, converting them into feedstocks for ‘bottle-to-bottle’ recycling as well as value-added upcycled (i.e. higher quality material) products for the automotive industry.

The primary objectives of this project are:

  1. Focus on developing novel additives that will enable repeated mechanical recycling (i.e. grinding, washing, separating, etc.) of  recycled PET without losing the desirable properties
  2. Upcycling of recycled PET via carbon- and glass-fibers reinforcement for value-added automotive manufacturing applications
  3. Analysis of technical and economic processes and life cycle assessment to facilitate economically and socially responsible decisions regarding the re/upcycling of recycled PET strategies developed during this proposed work