A US company is taking recycling to another level - turning back plastics into the oil they were made from, and gas.
Global Resource Corporation (GRC) claims the process requires only a finely tuned microwave that uses 1200 different frequencies within the microwave range, which act on specific hydrocarbon materials, and a mix of materials made from oil to reduce the product back to oil, a combustible gas, and a few leftovers.
As the material is zapped at the appropriate wavelength, part of the hydrocarbons that make up the plastic and rubber in the material are broken down into diesel oil and combustible gas.
"Anything that has a hydrocarbon base will be affected by our process. We release those hydrocarbon molecules from the material and it then becomes gas and oil," said Jerry Meddick, director of business development at GRC, based in New Jersey.
GRC's machine is called the Hawk-10. Its smaller incarnations look just like an industrial microwave with bits of machinery attached to it. Larger versions resemble a concrete mixer, reports New Scientist.
According to Meddick, the Hawk-10 will be very useful to the recycling industry. "Whatever does not have a hydrocarbon base is left behind, minus any water it contained as this gets evaporated in the microwave. Take a piece of copper wiring. It is encased in plastic - a kind of hydrocarbon material. We release all the hydrocarbons, which strips the casing off the wire," said Meddick.
"Not only does the process produce fuel in the form of oil and gas, it also makes it easier to extract the copper wire for recycling," he said.
"Similarly, running 9.1 kilograms of ground-up tyres through the Hawk-10 produces 4.54 litres of diesel oil, 1.42 cubic metres of combustible gas, 1 kg of steel and 3.40 kg of carbon black," he added.