New Opportunities to Recycle Thermoset Plastics

Earlier this year,  the “World Economic Forum” published an article on the Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2015, and we were happy to see that this list included reference to new opportunities for recycling thermoset plastics.

You might be thinking “Thermo- what? Where does this fall into the 1-7 option for plastics grades?” So here are some background facts:

  • Outside of the 1-7 grade classification system, plastics can also be grouped according to how easily they can be melted and made into new shapes while still maintaining other physical properties.  When grouped this way, a plastic is either a thermoset plastic or a thermoplastic.
  • Thermoset plastics are commonly found in industrial waste streams for manufacturing and distribution companies because they are better at retaining their shape and strength, even when exposed to high temperatures. In other words, if your company’s goal is to make your product indestructible, you’d probably favor using a thermoset plastic over a thermoplastic.
  • The downside of their indestructability is that thermoset plastics are difficult (some say impossible) to recycle. However, the World Economic Forum’s article, highlights the fact that scientists have discovered new opportunities for recycling a type of thermoset plastic called poly(hexahydrotiazines) or PHT.
  • One point this article fails to mention is that PHTs were recently discovered by IBM’s Big Blue research division in San Jose, California. To read more about this scientific discovery, we suggest also checking out “Recode’s” article about IBM’s new “Self-Healing Super Plastic” discovery.

For manufacturing and distribution companies, IBM’s new discovery of recyclable thermoset plastics could mean a major new opportunity to reduce waste to landfill. We’re excited to see what happens with this discovery.