Closed loop recycling for plastic bottles

John Buffington, University of Denver, Denver, USA

Challenge area: Revolutionizing plastics recycling 

Little waste management infrastructure exists in developing countries to effectively recycle or re-purpose plastics, with millions of PET plastic bottles discarded every year. This project aims to develop entrepreneurship and drastically increase recycling by establishing an end-to-end supply chain that requires no subsidization or government regulation.

Patented chemical recycling technology, combined with a solid financial model, will make PET recycling more profitable for waste pickers, positively impacting local economic development. In addition, 100% reuse of PET material in this innovative hub will help eliminate PET plastics from local ecosystems and allow for growth in process manufacturing as waste is converted into commercial grade chemicals.

In-lab testing and conceptual simulations have been successful so far. The next step is to finalize the supply chain system ahead of the pilot launch in Katutura Township, Namibia; it is hoped that the system could be rolled out to other countries across Africa and Asia, as well as Mexico.