This is the second in a series of free events in 2021 developed by the Science Policy Unit of the Royal Society of Chemistry that explore cutting edge issues surrounding the manufacture, use, reuse and disposal of plastics.

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August 13, 12:00 p.m. CET

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The plastic waste problem is at a critical juncture, and while plastics are a useful material in many applications, we need to find ways to live with them without harming the environment. Once a plastic has been reused and has reached the end of its useful life, it is time to recycle it. But how do we best maintain the value of our materials?

Mechanical recycling currently accounts for around 99% of the plastics recycling that takes place across Europe. When used perfectly, mechanical recycling can be a very effective way to turn old plastic products into new plastics. In the case of mixed or contaminated waste streams, however, an undesirable product is created and “downcycling” can occur.

Chemical recycling has been touted as a solution to some of the limitations of mechanical recycling and can address some of the “problem plastics” that cannot be easily recycled by traditional means.

“Chemical recycling” is actually an umbrella term for several technologies that break down polymer chains and manufacture a product further away from the finished plastic. Some of these processes are highly selective, and some use high temperatures to indiscriminately “crack” polymer chains into a mixed product.

But chemical recycling is not yet available on a large scale and there are some energy consumption concerns. So is chemical recycling worth the energy?

Our speakers discuss:

  • What is mechanical recycling and how can it be optimized
  • The technologies known as “chemical recycling”, their possible applications and hurdles to be overcome
  • What a recycling system of the future could look like and how we can get there

Sam Hill, Brightgreen Plastics

Speaker: Sam Hill

Sam Hill is the Director of Engineering and Quality at Bright Green Plastics. and has been with the company since 2019. Bright Green Plastics recycles more than 30,000 tons of plastic and is outward-looking and open to opportunities to work with partners from industry and academia to improve the recycling and uptake of recycled polypropylene and polyethylene.

Prior to working in the recycling industry, Sam worked in the formulation and process development of flexible PVC materials for the automotive industry. Sam has an MChem in Chemistry from the University of Huddersfield and a PhD from the Department of Color and Polymer Science, University of Leeds, studying electrically conductive polymers and their use in inks.

Ina Vollmer, Utrecht University

Speaker: Ina Vollmer

Ina Vollmer holds an MSc. EP in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US). In 2019 she did her doctorate on methane dehydroaromatization in the Catalysis Engineering group at the Technical University of Delft and then went to the University of Utrecht (Netherlands), where she examined the research progress of chemical recycling of plastics and currently the reaction mechanism of chemical recycling processes to develop new reaction pathways and processes at the institute for sustainable and circular chemistry.

Royal Society of Chemistry logo

Chemistry World and the Science Policy Unit of the Royal Society of Chemistry are proud to offer this series of webinars to promote the scientific debate on specific areas of plastics.

The Science Policy Department is part of the Policy and Evidence team and coordinates programs related to sustainability and health. Our aim is to improve the quality of scientific knowledge in policy-making and to show the positive influence of chemistry in solving global challenges.

Click the button below to register
August 13, 12:00 p.m. CET

Join Now


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