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Supercritical water: critical to recycling future

A new process developed by The University of Birmingham that promises to deliver a new approach to the recycling and extraction of products from a variety of plastic materials has been licenced for use by a company called Stopford. Stopford provides technological solutions for reprocessing mixed plastic packaging that delivers a greater proportion of high-value recycled plastics with less emissions, no solvent residue and fewer processing steps than is currently the case.

Critical to this new solution is the development of ‘Supercritical Water’. Above 374.5C and 220 bars (217 atmospheres) water is scientifically described as ‘supercritical’ essentially meaning that its properties are different than say your normal tap water. Supercritical water can be used as a solvent for all organic materials, including plastics and its gas like penetration lends itself to use with the decomposition of complex end-of-life plastics and their return to becoming new plastics components.

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