Meeting Your Corporate Circularity Commitments: Welcome to the Age of Advanced Recycling

Dec 21, 2021 11:00 AM ET

Originally published on Sustainable Brands

We believe that the solution to stopping plastic waste is understanding that the material is too valuable to be lost in landfills. We can change what is traditionally considered waste and transform it into a valuable, sustainable resource through advanced recycling.

First things first: What is advanced recycling?

Advanced recycling, which in many ways picks up where traditional recycling leaves off, is a process that can be used for virtually all plastics. In a more technical sense, advanced recycling — also called feedstock or chemical recycling — works by breaking down plastic through pyrolysis-based heating (thermal heating in the absence of oxygen) into its original molecules to rebuild them into new products. Advanced recycling can also capture hard-to-recycle plastics that don’t work within the traditional, mechanical recycling streams — such as plastic films and packaging — and can be repeated over and over again for some materials.

At Dow, we like to use an analogy to help people unfamiliar with the process understand it:

Think about a Lego castle that’s made up of all different colors, shapes and designs that you want to break down and rebuild into a new creation. If you were to use traditional, mechanical recycling, you could only break down Legos of the same shape and color — yellow, square Legos with yellow, square Legos, or #1 PET plastic with other #1 PET plastic products — limiting your ability to reimagine, reuse or recreate. But if you used advanced recycling instead, you could break down the castle and use any kind of Lego — regardless of style, design or color — and rebuild however you want.

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