• Recycling is a sop, not a panacea: the World Bank estimates that global municipal solid waste will grow from 2.01 billion tonnes a year to 3.4 billion tonnes by 2050.
  • No large-scale solutions for trash have ever been found, aside from returning to the Stone Age — until the Israeli startup UBQ invented a way to turn garbage into something extremely useful: a new composite material that looks like plastic, acts like plastic but unlike plastic, is fully recyclable.
  • Using a patented conversion process, UBQ turns unsorted garbage into thermoplastic pellets for plastic manufacture.
  • Existing manufacturers can use the pellets without retrofitting.
  • Manufacturers can use this new material to make things like panels and pipes by extrusion, or to make bins, pallets, boxes and flower pots by injection molding.
  • The pre-plastic pellets are made from more finely chopped trash; road materials and bricks are being developed from coarser trash.
  • The only input into both processes: garbage.
  • The only output: plastic precursor and water vapour that escapes from the drying garbage itself.
  • Crucially, the company’s process it is massively carbon-negative.
  • It does emit greenhouse gases (GHG) when transporting trash to UBQ conversion plants, and from the power to run the plants.
  • But while making one tonne of polypropylene produces more than two tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions (and the feedstock is fossil fuels), and producing a tonne of polylactic acid from corn generates 3.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide, UBQ claims that each tonne of its composite reduces carbon dioxide emissions by about 15 tonnes, in net terms.
  • The company’s process can even handle electronics, which people know perfectly well they shouldn’t junk, but do anyway.
  • Electronics get crushed and chopped with the rest of the garbage, and heavy metals get removed with metal elements in the trash, by applying magnets and metal detectors to the trash throughout the conversion process.
  • The recyclability of UBQ’s material is also greater than that of conventional plastics, leading us closer to a truly viable circular economy, justify now.
  • So the company has invented a patented method to convert our crap into a novel patented thermoplastic substance (i.e., it melts when heated) that looks like plastic, behaves like plastic, has the tensile strength of plastic, and can be 100% recycled. It emits no waste, just water vapour.