Today the world produces over 300 million tons of plastics every year. That’s almost equivalent to the weight of the entire human population. The vast majority of this is single-use and not designed to be recycled, ending up in landfills or sloughing off in the natural environment as litter.
However, scientists have not given up on putting their innovative thinking into play and coming up with ingenious techniques to turn some of that waste into a wide variety of wonderful and useful products. The latest of such products comes from researchers at Queen’s University, who figured out a way to convert single-use plastics into storage tanks for water and fuel and sporting goods, such as kayaks and canoes.
Their ground-breaking approach involves a manufacturing process called rotational molding, which has the potential to economically recycle very large volumes of plastic waste into a wide variety of innovative products, such as urban street furniture, storage tanks, and marine buoys.
The process starts by turning the plastic into pellets, which are then blended with a new plastic, heated to over 200C, and then cooled within a mold to transform it into the shape of a new product. Once the technique has been completely optimized, it is expected that recycled waste could replace around 30 percent of the new plastic that would have been required for an individual product and will use the equivalent of 1,000 old milk bottles in its manufacture.