In our MAELDrops, we have mentioned that most of the marine litter is plastic. But what exactly is plastic?
Plastics are a set of polymeric materials, made up of many equal and repeated units. There are diverse types of plastics and each one has distinct characteristics according to the type of polymer from which it is made. Even in a simple bottle of water we can find two types of plastics: the bottle itself is usually made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is light and resistant, whereas the cap is often made of polypropylene (PP), which is slightly harder and more heat resistant.
Plastics play an important role for human activities. Just think, for example, of how many medical devices, from disposable gloves to catheters, are made of plastic. However, if not responsibly managed and disposed, plastics can become a severe problem for ecosystems, with impacts on our own health. One of the strategies to mitigate the problem, in addition to limiting production whenever possible, is to recycle and re-use plastic materials within in a circular economy perspective. To do so, it is necessary to consider the distinct types of plastics and choose appropriate recycling treatments accordingly.
What about MAELSTROM? From the marine litter collected by our technologies, plastics will be separated thanks to a robot based on an artificial intelligence system. In accordance with the European circular economy action plan, plastics will then be recycled through 3 innovative processes: additive and compounding, hot pressing, and low temperature pyrolysis, which will allow to recycle most of the plastic waste. Materials which will not be directed to recycling will be used for primary energy generation and second-generation fuel, and will power MAELSTROM’s underwater cable-robot for marine waste collection… creating a self-sustaining cycle!