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Igus invests £4m in pioneering UK recycling plant

03 February, 2020

The German engineering plastics specialist igus has invested £4m in a company that is building a first-of-its-kind plant in Cheshire, UK, that will recycle plastic waste into synthetic oil that can be re-used to make new plastic products. Construction is due to start this year on the first commercial catalytic hydrothermal reactor (Cat-HTR) plant which will consist of four reactors and will be able to process more than 80,000 tonnes of plastic waste every year.

The patented technology has been tested for more than 10 years in a pilot plant in Australia. It can process end-of-life, non-recyclable plastic waste can back into synthetic crude oil and chemical by-products within 20 minutes, using only high pressures, high temperatures and water.

Igus’ managing director, Frank Blase, became aware of the Cat-HTR technology last year and contacted its German inventor, Professor Thomas Maschmeyer, in Sydney, Australia. After intensive research, igus is investing £4m in Mura Technology which is building the plant in Wilton, Cheshire.

“Chemical recycling offers new solutions to the problem of recycling mixed plastic,” says Blase. “We are committed to the achievement of a state of balance in the world of plastics with technical solutions and, after seven months of analysis, have backed Mura to accelerate the adoption of chemical recycling for mixed plastics.”

The plant in which igus is investing will recycle plastics into a re-usable form

In the Cat-HTR process, the plastic feedstock is first processed into a powdered form before being mixed with water to form a slurry. This is then subjected to high temperatures and pressures, and undergoes a chemical reaction in which water hydrolyses the biomass. Oxygen is removed in the form of carbon dioxide, and hydrogen from the water is used to create a synthetic form of crude oil which can be blended with fossil oil in refineries. The heat is recycled.

The process is said to be more resource-efficient than extracting fossil fuels from the ground. At present, most plastics are incinerated and only 14% are recycled. Mura is planning to issue licences for its technology around the world and to build further plants.

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