A man picking up waste standing on a raft in a river.
 Identifying and separating plastic from other types of floating waste is the first hurdle faced by the project consortium led by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. Image: Shutterstock
Recycling

VTT-led project to fish out plastic waste from rivers

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has put together a consortium to explore new techniques for identifying, recovering and recycling plastic waste floating in rivers in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Aleksi Teivainen

19.01.2021

The objective of the project is to develop a circular economy concept that enables the recovery of floating plastic waste at a reasonable cost and the recycling of the waste into valuable materials, such as fuels and construction materials.

“In Jakarta, we are looking at the amount, quality and location of waste floating in the river and studying options to identify the waste from the air,” outlined Mona Arnold, a principal scientist at VTT. “Our goal is to develop circular economy concepts that suit local conditions and which can also be applied in other key locations with floating waste issues.”

The industry-research consortium will explore the possibility of utilising optical sensors installed in drones and fixed locations to both identify plastic from other types of floating waste, such as textiles and plant materials, and monitor the float to support the recovery.

A river filled with trash

According to the WEF, just 10 river systems worldwide carry 90 per cent of the plastic that ends up in the ocean. Image: Adobe

A number of recycling methods will also be examined to identify the method or combination of methods most suitable for the local conditions.

VTT estimates that some of the waste can be melted down and moulded into new products for the construction industry, for example. Dirty and difficult-to-sort plastic, in turn, can be subjected to pyrolysis to break down long polymer chains and produce pyrolysis oil, which can be processed into fuel, such as diesel, or fractionated into monomers.

The effort will take advantage of the technological oil-spill response expertise of Lamor, the floating waste collection expertise of River Recycle, the plastic recycling expertise of Wimao and the process industry expertise of Valmet. The Finnish quartet are also contributing to the project funding, along with VTT and Business Finland.

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