dutch plastic engineers
Researchers based in the Netherlands hope to find appropriate plastic recycling technology for isolated islands.
Photo provided by Searious Business.

Searious Business looks at Caribbean plastics situation

Dutch organization examines ways to divert and recycle plastic scrap on isolated islands in the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean.

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Netherlands-based social enterprise Searious Business says it has been working with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on a project called Plastic Waste Free Island (PWFI) “to rethink the plastic generated on islands and stopping it from leaking into the surrounding marine environment.”

The company says not all plastics “are so easily replaced or mechanically recycled,” meaning “there will always remain some plastic products that require a different kind of treatment.” Finding advanced recycling technologies in these remote areas is challenging, says Searious Business, which is why it is undertaking a search for the most suitable technologies.

Searious Business points to plastic products including polyolefin bags and films, low-density polyethylene (LDPE) items such as six-pack yokes, potato chip packets, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polystyrene (PS) as having limited options “to process them into useful applications” in an island setting.

“Unfortunately, nonrecyclable plastics are not currently dealt with by the waste management [authorities] on the islands, and high volumes are piling up, causing severe environmental issues,” writes Searious Business.

Processes such as chemical recycling, pyrolysis, depolymerization and gasification can transform these polymers back into new material, so in cooperation with Dutch consultancy CE Delft, Searious Business says it will “carefully analyze the waste generation; evaluate and identify the most suitable technologies depending on island characteristics.”

Initial efforts will focus on three Caribbean islands (St Lucia, Antigua Barbuda and Grenada) and three Pacific Ocean islands (Fiji, Vanuatu and Samoa).

The vision, says Searious Business, is to create a blueprint for Plastic Waste Free Islands “so that all solutions can be scaled up and rolled out to other islands across the globe.”