Posted in | Packaging | Recycling

Researchers Develop New Method to Convert Plastic Waste into Insulation Foams

Each year, millions of tons of waste across the globe are caused by end-of-life vehicles, with their rubber, metal and plastic components.

Hughette Roe/

Now, a Research team has proposed a new idea where coconut oil can be used to recycle the plastic parts in the end-of-life vehicles and re-use them as foams in several industries such as automotive, construction and packaging. The study has been reported in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.

Polyurethane (PUR) and recycled polycarbonate (PC) are suitable materials for cushions, building insulation, packaging products and refrigerators; however, plastic car components would have difficulty reaching that point.  

While it would be easy to reprocess certain plastic waste released by vehicles, a more laborious chemical recycling method is required to reprocess the PUR and PC materials.  Moreover, the process is hindered by paints and coatings on PUR and PC plastics from vehicles, ultimately leading to deterioration of the recycled product. Similarly, adding certain types of recycled PUR and PC materials to current-generation of insulation foams can make the foams either too brittle or too dense. While Researchers have come up with many chemical recycling methods, only a few of them have attempted to make useable products with the PC and PUR materials.  

In order to increase the applications of these materials, Aleksander Prociak, Hynek Beneš, and colleagues wanted to adopt an innovative method that converts PUR and PC materials into recycled materials. Earlier, the Researchers had demonstrated that PC can be degraded by coconut oil. Here, the Researchers came up with a new method to recover PUR and PC materials from waste car plastics using microwaves and coconut oil. This resulted in a recycled, renewable, non-degradable product, which can be integrated with an existing foam without compromising the integrity of the insulation foam.

This novel material was also shown to be stable at high temperatures and hence can be integrated into insulating materials for the construction sector.

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