Recycling technologies – Unceasing Innovations, High Impact

There are growing concerns around energy sourcing for the manufacturing sector and the demand for secondary raw materials. These are forcing recyclers to increase efficiency and productivity.

One can now witness major trends in recycling technologies and discover the latest developments. There are new chemical and advanced mechanical recycling technologies that are attracting investments to increase the value of waste and wastewater streams.

It would be great to note that Prime Minister Narendra Modiji last month wore a sleeveless jacket made of material recycled from plastic bottles to Parliament.

Following his recommendation to ultimately phase out single-use plastic over a period of time, Indian Oil has developed uniforms for customer attendants at retail outlets as well as LPG delivery personnel that are made from recycled polyester (rPET) and cotton. This can be a mammoth achievement considering that every uniform set shall support the recycling of around 28 discarded PET bottles.
Indian Oil is taking additional initiatives through “Unbottled” - sustainable garments launched for merchandise that is developed using recycled polyester.

A lot of recycling facilities across sectors are integrating software, AI, and IoT to enhance productivity, quality of output, and other parameters. Such trends impacting the recycling sector through continual innovation are changing the future of recycling with many techniques being evaluated in the industry. Such innovations are taking place globally and these trends and developments can propel rapid advancements progress in waste recycling and management when adequately supported by consumer and societal initiatives.

Artificial Intelligence

If AI has a role to play, human error and judgment are among the major hindering items to efficient recycling. This can be attributed due to laziness, lack of knowledge, and fear of failure that restricts personnel from effectively separating or extracting waste.

Fortunately, artificial intelligence offers potential support by classifying and recognizing the composition and configuration of constituents and components in different situations and shaping decisions about where and when the material can be recyclable. Such technologies could effectively sort our waste no matter how mangled or difficult the task at hand is. This results in a greater number of items or volumes of materials that are recycled and reused.


Altais Nova is a well-known brand that has developed solutions around magnet additives. These additives can enhance the material’s air and moisture insulation. Made of tiny platelet-shaped silicate and iron oxide particles, these additives are very easy to spot and separate at recycling centres. This helps to increase recycling speed and rates.


It is a known fact that particular strains of bacteria eat non-biodegradable plastic and turn it into PHA. This is an eco-friendly, biodegradable plastic called polyhydroxyalkanoates. Reports have also indicated how certain ocean microbes have adapted and evolved to eat single-use plastics and then degrade up to ten different types.

Research is now underway on how enzymes can be deployed for industrial use. By tracking lab studies to determine the potential degradation rate, such microbes, and their plastic-consuming capabilities could help improve the battle against plastic pollution.

The polypropylene challenge

Colours, odours, and other contaminants in plastic can create a problem for recycling.

This is particularly true for a plastic called polypropylene, one of the most used types of plastics worldwide. Even today, just about 1% of this plastic is recycled.

PureCycle Technologies is a brand that has developed a technology to strip plastic waste and transform it into a resin base for new plastic products. Their products include plastic additives that can modify the plastic to enable organizations to use it for different products. Thus, a plastic jam container can then become an automobile bumper and vice versa. This kind of innovation when scaled can curtail the dependence on unsustainable raw materials and lower the growing mountain of plastic waste.

Plastic in infrastructure

Plastic waste is finding applications in a variety of unrelated areas and two cases are outlined below.

  • Roads in which waste plastic gets broken down and mixed with regular paving materials are becoming popular around the world. While still a niche or uncommon technology, studies suggest that roads could become just a single case of an assorted selection of use cases for plastic waste.

    Such technology made its way to India about two decades ago. This act is now being tried and adopted in many other nations. India has completed over 60,000 miles of such roads. These technologies are now gathering momentum in Europe and Asia. meanwhile, is gaining ground in Britain, Europe, and Asia. Some other nations like South Africa, Mexico, the USA, and Vietnam have recently made headway into building plastic roads.

  • The retail store Asda joined hands with the leading eco-friendly baby brand Pura to create the first British in-store signage by using recycled nappies. The signage will be used on shelving selling Pura products across 300 plus stores by replacing conventional virgin plastic shelves. Pura claims about the equivalent of 7,000 plus used nappies can be recycled to make the signage or about seven nappies per sign.

    These used nappies are shredded, washed, and dried. After processing into pellets, they are mixed with other raw materials such as cellulose fibre, and pressed into boards.

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