Read the full story in Fast Company.
If you toss an empty yogurt container in a recycling bin and you live in a city where that type of plastic is recyclable, the container might end up as part of a park bench or flowerpot. Polypropylene, plastic with the No. 5 symbol, is a prime example of “downcycling.” Right now, it ends up as a lower-quality material when it’s recycled, so it can’t be remade into new packaging for food.
But a new recycling technology could change that. PureCycle Technologies, a company that is currently building a commercial recycling plant in Lawrence County, Ohio, and just announced a new partnership with Nestlé, uses a new process that turns old polypropylene into a virgin-like material. The standard recycling process grinds up colored plastic to create a dull gray or black material that has few uses, which means that there’s little demand for old toys, packaging, carpets, or other polypropylene products that could be recycled. At the moment, of the millions of tons of the material produced each year, less than 1% is recycled.