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Companies are testing tech that could recycle up to 90% of plastics

Honeywell, one of the largest American industrial conglomerates, is working with a Madrid-based infrastructure company, Sacyr, to pilot a recycling process that the company claims can handle up to 90% of the world's global plastic waste.

The Spanish facility in Andalucia that the two companies are going to co-own will be able to process about 30,000 tons of plastic waste -- converting that trash into a feedstock that can be used to make all kinds of new plastic products.

It's an attempt to close the loop on plastic, which is very, very difficult to recycle completely to make new products. Most plastic products are either land-filled, burned, dumped in the ocean -- or -- if they are recycled -- they're down-cycled from their original purpose.

The Honeywell process claims to expand the types of plastics that can be recycled to reduce the overall carbon footprint of manufacturing and the need to make new plastic.

The trick is that the process Honeywell is trying to commercialize needs to be used in conjunction with other types of mechanical and chemical processing -- and the company didn't say how much additional costs would be added to recycling using its new process.

The 90% figure that Honeywell cites, depends on additional sorting improvements and the use of these other processes. If fully implemented, the new policy can recycle colored plastics, multilayered packaging and polystyrene, the company said.

Recycled plastics made using Honeywell's process could result in a 57% reduction of CO2 equivalent emissions versus the production of virgin plastic (mainly by reducing consumption of new fossil fuels to make the plastic).

The company also said that the process is better than burning plastic or throwing it away.

While true, it might be better to replace plastic in the supply chain with other products that have a better environmental footprint.

"Plastics play an important role in our society, including expanding the shelf life of food and making vehicles lighter, which reduces their emissions. Unfortunately, only a fraction of plastics today can be successfully recycled," said Vimal Kapur, president and chief executive officer of Honeywell Performance Materials and Technologies, in a statement.

"Honeywell's UpCycle process helps fix this problem. By broadening the types of plastic that can be recycled, UpCycle will revolutionize the plastics economy and play a critical role in improving the sustainability of many of the products we use on a daily basis."

Production is expected to begin in 2023, according to Honeywell.

Honeywell isn't the only company to claim miracle ways to solve the world's waste problem. UBQ Materials, out of Israel, also touts a technology to get rid of waste by using chemical and physical processes to tear that waste down into parts, then boiling it together to make new pellets that can be used as inputs for manufacturing.

And, on the outskirts of Atlanta, just across the Chattahoochee River from a Six Flags amusement park, Nexus Fuels, is trying to beat Honeywell at its own game. The early stage startup has received significant backing from Cox Enterprises as it looks to scale up its business.

"With Cox's full support, Nexus has created an end-to-end business, poised to grow globally," said Nexus President and Co-Founder Eric Hartz, in a statement. "This circular solution means all plastics currently above ground are all that's ever needed."

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