A novel method for recycling PLA using low-temperature, low-pressure reactions with alcohol or water has been discovered by Zeus Research. PLA is used today in many applications ranging from food packaging to implantable medical devices. Because of its sensitivity to thermal degradation, PLA is difficult to recycle and actually becomes a contaminant in the plastics stream of municipal solid waste.
Using the newly discovered process, different grades of PLA can be removed from a stream of commingled plastics and broken down to give high-value chemicals. Some of these chemicals, called monomers, can be purified and used as feedstock to synthesize virgin PLA resin, thereby “closing the loop” on the PLA life cycle. The method has low capital and operating costs and is well-suited to industrial recycling processes. Moreover, it is consistent with the concepts of sustainability and of a circular economy.