As part of an EPSRC-funded Doctoral Training Programme project, Cranfield is contributing to the development of landfill mining by investigating opportunities for recovering value from excavated waste plastics through pyrolysis.

At a glance

Around the UK, plastics in closed household waste landfill sites account for around 15-20% of the total waste, however the value and viability of reclaimed plastics is not clear as it is typically low-grade and difficult to recycle economically. Enhanced landfill mining is an emerging area that aims to recover value from such excavated solid waste, a process known as ‘upcycling’.

Many uncertainties are encountered in the pyrolysis of plastics recovered through landfill mining because the effect of degradation and contaminants on the quality and quantity of the liquid product is unknown. This timely and innovative project aims to establish the chemical composition and concentration ranges of typical contaminants of waste plastics, and so understanding the influence of these parameters on the pyrolysis process performance and product quality.

The results will help to design processes able to convert a wide range of recovered plastics into high-value products, such as liquid fuels, and will contribute to the deployment of landfill mining as an economic and technically viable practice. The potential gains to the environment and to local government finances could be significant, and this work builds on a number of landfill-reclamation projects being conducted across the School of Water, Energy and Power, and Environment and Agrifood.

Recovered plastics that can be turned into high-value products, such as liquid fuels
Recovered plastics that can be turned into high-value products, such as liquid fuels