Circular economy of plastics

A photo of a person putting plastic bottles into a recycling bin.

While plastics make our life safer, healthier and more convenient, they also harm the environment when they end up in our natural ecosystems. VTT helps create innovations for an environmentally and economically sustainable approach: A circular economy of plastics. 

Key facts

VTT has state-of-the-art mechanical recycling equipment to improve the recyclate quality and increase recycling rates. 

VTT has strong competence in the field of thermochemical recycling supported by state-of-the-art pyrolysis and gasification equipment in different scales. 

We make technology assessment studies and consultancy in the field of circular plastics. 

Plastics are everywhere. They are essential to make our life safer, healthier and more convenient. However, these benefits come at a cost with our current linear economy, where plastics are designed for single-use. Currently, a majority of plastics are disposed after single use and accumulate in places where they should not be: in forests, seas and ground, even in the food chain. 

Whether you work in packaging, healthcare, mobility, petrochemical or any other industry, VTT can help you research and develop innovations that improve recycling concepts or replace virgin fossil-based plastics with recycled or bio-based materials. Our innovative alternatives to conventional plastics from cellulose or from food and agricultural sidestreams are high-performing, award-winning examples of our work. Our offering in plastics research also encompasses versatile plastic processing and recycling facilities where you can develop, analyse, produce and pilot new solutions. 

Ecodesign means circularity in every step

To support product reuse and remanufacturing business models, we need to counteract the degradation of plastic and its molecular structure during use. VTT develops high performance, durable materials and methods to repair the molecular structure of polymers to retains its performance and allow recyclability. 

We help companies in packaging, healthcare, mobility, petrochemical and other industries to improve recycling concepts and replace virgin fossil-based plastics with recycled or bio-based materials.  

There are hundreds of different plastics formulations. It is critical that plastic waste is separated according to polymer types through sophisticated sorting technologies. VTT develops these methods to identify plastic types and potentially harmful additives. These technologies help close the loop in plastics recycling and ensure that the recycled product retains its value. VTT has developed processing equipment that allows efficient compacting and extrusion of challenging waste streams. This will help in reprocessing post-industrial waste, but is also an efficient pre-treatment for further recycling techniques. 

Sometimes plastic waste cannot be recycled mechanically and thermochemical recycling is the more feasible alternative. VTT has broad competencies in the field of pyrolysis and gasification, which enables the transformation of organic material into valuable chemicals. 

Sustainable feedstock challenge

As 100% circularity is not achievable in the foreseeable future, we still need virgin feedstock to make plastics. We can replace the currently dominant fossil-based feedstock with sustainable biomass, carbon dioxide or recycled feedstock. VTT develops solutions from cellulose and side streams from agriculture, forestry and food. 

Biodegradable materials

As any circular economy still requires some inflow of virgin feedstock, we also need a environmentally acceptable outflow. This can be achieved through controlled degradation. VTT develops biodegradable material solutions, but also advanced evaluation techniques to assess the biodegradability of your material.  

 

Read more:

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation awards VTT for a bio-based packaging solution that reduces the use of plastics

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