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Research Shows Plastic Can Be Recycled For Hi-Spec Engineering Use

14 December 2004

A 12-month research project undertaken by Pera Innovation has shown that recycled plastic can be successfully used as a reinforcement medium for high pressure engineering applications.

Pera Innovation, a unique independent research and development organisation, won a grant of £152,420 from The Onyx Environmental Trust through the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme to carry out this innovative research project.

Researchers wanted to demonstrate that Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) fibres and tapes derived from plastic squash bottles and food trays could be treated and reused to manufacture high value reinforced thermoplastic pipes. The products were also assessed in terms of life cycle analysis to further determine their commercial viability.

A number of prototypes were developed, together with a mechanism for joining the pipes. When tested, the prototypes were successful in achieving proof of concept for putting recycled PET from the plastic bottle waste stream into a high added value pipe application, achieving burst pressure exceeding 100bar.

Andy Huang, Researcher for Pera Innovation said: “Preliminary cost assessments suggest that this pipe will cost less than a third compared with products currently on the market with the same pressure rating.

“Such reinforced thermoplastic pipes could play a major role in the £900m European market for transmission lines used in the oil and gas industries. By creating this new high value market for low value PET waste, the team has provided a great incentive to recycle and re-use the material.”

Margaret Cobbold, General Manager of The Onyx Environmental Trust, said: “The Trust is delighted to see such encouraging results from this research project. Pera’s innovative approach to identifying commercial opportunities by recycling materials demonstrates environmentally responsible alternatives available to the engineering industry.”

Now that the proof of concept has been established, Pera is seeking further industrial sponsorship to develop and demonstrate a full-scale continuous manufacturing facility that will help ensure the technology is adopted and exploited by industry. With further research, the same technology could be utilised in many other products and market sectors.