Case study by the University of Warwick
The consumption of plastic worldwide has created a global rubbish problem requiring an urgent solution.
Today only 10% of plastic waste is recycled globally; the rest is landfilled, incinerated or, worse still, lost into the environment. This represents a huge loss to the economy and a disaster for our oceans. The World Economic Forum and Ellen MacArthur Foundation predict that unless action is taken, there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050.
One of the companies joining the environmental crusade against plastic waste is Recycling Technologies Ltd, established in 2011 to develop an idea originating at the University of Warwick to convert mixed waste plastic into a chemical feedstock using pyrolysis. The idea started as a research project led by Professor Jan Baeyens, a Visiting Professor at Warwick, along with the School of Engineering, and an early test rig was designed and developed.
Founder and CEO of Recycling Technologies, Adrian Griffiths, is passionate about transforming waste to resources and was instantly attracted to commercialise a technical solution that could turn the tide on the problem plastic creates when it becomes waste. The Warwick concept and research was transferred to Recycling Technologies and the development of a plastic waste recycling process continued at the company’s Research Centre in Swindon. The development was supported by leading engineering partners and backed by grant and angel funding from the team and private investors, including from the Minerva Business Angel Network run by the University of Warwick Science Park.
Building on the original university research foundations, Recycling Technologies has now developed a modular machine, the RT7000, which recycles a wide range of household and commercial plastic waste back into a petrochemical raw material called Plaxx®. Plaxx® is used in a number of applications, including as industrial waxes, marine and process fuels and as the chemical feedstock from which new plastics are made.
“The RT7000 not only offers a solution for plastic waste disposed of in landfills and our oceans, but by turning waste plastic back to oil to be made into new plastics, the value chain is entirely circular.”
The modular design of the RT7000 machine enables it to be mass produced and easily transported to waste sites across the UK and globally, taking the solution to the problem of plastic waste wherever it occurs.
Recycling Technologies’ connections to the University of Warwick continue, extending beyond the technical foundations of the company. The business maintains educational relationships with Warwick, welcoming students on internships. One student, Ravish Jain, joined Recycling Technologies as Commercial Operations Manager following his internship as part of his MBA programme with Warwick Business School, and has since been promoted to Commercial Operations Director and joined the company’s Board.
This year, having completed extensive engineering trials on its beta plant based at Swindon’s recycling centre, the company opens its first commercial plant in Scotland, part-funded by Zero Waste Scotland. Each plant has the capacity to recycle 7,000 tonnes of plastic a year with an 85% energy efficiency. Within a decade, the company’s goal is to have installed 1,300 machines worldwide, producing an annual recycling capacity of 10 million tonnes of plastic waste – three times the EU’s total recycling capacity today – and giving Warwick’s early research a truly global impact.
Published: 16 October 2018
This article first appeared in the 2018 State of the Relationship report, commissioned by Research England and compiled and published by NCUB.