QUB boffins pioneering new ways to reuse plastic
Researchers in Belfast have discovered new ways to convert single-use plastic waste into new products.
Over 300m tonnes of plastics are produced every year.
Much of this is not designed to be recycled, which creates a mountain of waste that enters the natural environment such as plastic pollution in the oceans.
However, researchers at the Polymer Processing Research Centre at Queen's University are pioneering techniques to turn waste plastic into useful products. It involves a manufacturing process called rotational moulding, which has the potential to economically recycle large volumes of plastic waste into things such as urban street furniture, storage tanks and marine buoys.
Researchers are working in collaboration with three industrial partners: Impact Laboratories Ltd in Scotland, Impact Recycling Ltd in England, and Harlequin Plastics Ltd in Northern Ireland.
Dr Peter Martin from the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Queen's said flakes of waste plastics are separated and compounded into pellets.
These pellets are then ground into a fine powder, which is blended with a proportion of new plastic, polyethylene, heated to over 200C and then cooled within a mould to transform it into the shape of a new product.
"It is expected that in one product of this kind waste plastic could replace around 30% of the new plastic required and use the equivalent of 1,000 old milk bottles in its manufacture," Dr Martin added.