Study Targets Floating Plastic Waste Recovery

Jan. 27, 2021
A research project led by VTT examines how plastic waste ending up in rivers can be taken out and recycled profitably.

Floating plastic waste can reportedly be recovered cost-effectively and valorized if the recovery can take place before the waste reaches the sea. A research project led by VTT Technical Research Center of Finland, Espoo, Finland. examines how plastic waste ending up in rivers can be taken out and recycled profitably. The pilot area for the project is Jakarta, Indonesia, where PET bottles and durable propylene products such as pipes and containers are recycled but other plastic waste either ends up in landfills with other mixed waste or is washed into rivers, and further into the sea.

Plastic waste floating in waterways quickly drifts far away from its original locations, making it difficult and expensive to recover. Furthermore, with no clear owner of the problem, no one takes responsibility for the recovery. Recovery is easier as soon as possible after the plastic waste has ended up in a river, and is in the interest of nearby residents, officials and businesses. Floating waste rafts would more easily be recovered if it could be done at a reasonable cost and if the plastic waste could be recycled into valuable materials. The two-year Kelmuvex project led by VTT aims at precisely such a recycling concept.

“In Jakarta we are looking at the amount, quality and location of waste floating in the river and studying options to identify the waste from the air. We are working together with Finnish companies to develop and test methods to enable the recovery of floating plastic waste from the river and to utilize it as a raw material for construction materials and fuels, for example. Our goal is to develop circular economy concepts that suit local conditions and which can also be applied in other key locations with floating waste issues,” says Mona Arnold, principal scientist at VTT.

The Kelmuvex project is funded by Business Finland, VTT and four Finnish companies, which are the members of the project consortium: Lamor is well-known for its mechanical oil-spill response technology; RiverRecycle is developing technologies for collecting and removing floating waste, as well as recycling concepts; Wimao supplies technology for recycling plastic waste and Valmet technology for the process industry. In addition, local actors involved in developing waste management in Jakarta will take part in the project.

For more information, visit: www.vttresearch.com

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