Blockchains are proving extremely useful for keeping track of materials in all types of supply chains and creating transparent and immutable audit trails. Meanwhile, governments around the world are enacting laws that require retailers and plastics manufacturers to demonstrate that they meet minimum recycling levels, requirements that are likely to intensify in the future.
And this is where a handful of blockchain startups see the opportunity invest, linking the main refining companies that use new types of plastic recycling, in an attempt to reinvent the current supply chains.
Developers working to help the planet
Currently, only rigid plastics are mechanically recycled into lower quality plastics, a process that can be repeated at most twice. But a combination of intelligent industrial technologies is bound to make plastics recycling more sophisticated in the coming years, bringing chemically modified raw materials back into the production process.
This means reducing the plastic to the raw sludge from which it comes and then refining it again in any order of new products, creating a completely circular economy for a waste product that has become a plague on the planet (up to 12 million tons of waste plastic enters the oceans every year).
The prospect of chemically recycled plastic entering global supply chains is the next step for large oil and gas refining companies, said Juan Miguel Perez, CEO of Finboot, who uses corporate blockchains to help companies measure and reduce their carbon footprints. Finboot is working with Repsol, the Spanish energy giant committed to achieving zero net emissions by 2050 (Repsol acquired an 8% stake in Finboot in July last year).
Blockchain technology as a basic infrastructure in plastic recycling
Circulor, a UK-based start-up, is also trying to track recycled plastic through supply chains, adapting the same work it is doing with minerals such as cobalt to plastic.
Chemical plastic recycling is the future, said Circulor CEO Doug Johnson-Poensgen, and the correct infrastructure to do so is gradually being put in place, adding that Circulor is "identifying" a UK-based recycling technology project Kingdom, which manufactures equipment for chemically recycling plastic.
This also improves mechanical means by incorporating so-called soft plastics, which generally end up in landfills or simply disperse into the environment, said Recycling Technologies Marketing Manager Lisa Zafferani.
"I think what is really interesting for the waste and recycling industry is how we can use technology like blockchain to track plastic waste in those recycling processes and their output," said Zafferani. .