In this Sustainable Energy Seminar, Dr. Reid Van Lehn, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering, will highlight new technologies being developed at the UW-Madison Center for Chemical Upcycling of Waste Plastics (CUWP).
Plastics are ubiquitous in all facets of everyday life. Globally, over 400 million metric tons of plastic are produced per year; over 35 million tons of plastic are consumed in the United States alone. These numbers are projected to increase, contributing to numerous long-term environmental challenges. There is thus an urgent need for new, economically viable technologies to recycle – or upcycle – plastic waste. In this presentation, I will provide an overview of the plastics recycling challenge and new recycling technologies that are being developed by the Center for the Chemical Upcycling of Waste Plastics (CUWP), which was recently established at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with funding from the Department of Energy. CUWP is developing new technologies designed for the near-term recycling of waste plastic in close collaboration with a range of scientists and engineers across 7 different universities as well as numerous companies that produce, recycle, or consume plastics. I will particularly focus on a technology that we call Solvent-Targeted Recovery and Precipitation (STRAP), which was recently developed as a method to recycle multilayer plastic packaging materials. STRAP has been shown to recover nearly 100% of the components from multiple high-volume commercial plastic film provided by our industrial partners and is less expensive than purchasing the original plastic material. I will conclude my talk by highlighting several other promising plastic recycling technologies being developed in academic and industrial laboratories around the world.