Recycling with irradiation

The IAEA highlights that plastic pollution is one of today’s most pressing global environmental challenges and a direct threat to sustainable development. According to projections, by 2025 the ocean will contain one tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish, and by 2050, there may be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Landfills are often brimming with plastic waste and pose an environmental threat to downstream ecosystems such as rivers, groundwater, and the ocean. Furthermore, incineration of plastic refuse may also release toxic gases.

The IAEA article highlights the benefits of recycling with irradiation. Using gamma and electron beam radiation technologies as a complement to traditional mechanical and chemical recycling methods, certain types of plastic waste can be modified and therefore reused or recycled.

These technologies can complement existing recycling methods to:

  • Sort mechanically treated plastic waste according to polymer type.
  • Breakdown plastic polymers into smaller components to be used as raw materials for new plastic products.
  • Treat plastic so that it can be amalgamated with other material to make more durable products.
  • Convert plastic into fuel and feedstocks through radiolysis (irradiation + chemical recycling).

To access the full IAEA article click here.

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