The lifecycle of Poly Lactic Acid (PLA) is based on a closed loop system. Instead of simply reducing negative environmental impacts, PLA looks to actually create a positive impact. How? By re-using and recycling products as much as possible and thereafter, at their end-of-life, using various reintegration options to transform them back into feedstock for a new product lifecycle.
The end-of-life options for PLA include reusing, recycling, renewable energy recovery (incineration), compost/biodegradation, anaerobic digestion and feedstock recovery. By closing the loop in this way, consumers, brandowners and manufacturers can use resources more efficiently – securing the return of a valuable material stream and reducing waste.
How easily can PLA be recycled? We decided to find out by sponsoring the distribution of PLA drinking cups at events, where consumers had the opportunity to immediately recycle them into new products after use.
Called the Perpetual Plastic Project, it has provided users with a 'do-it-yourself', interactive machine that replicates the recycling steps of cleaning, drying, shredding, melting and extrusion - before finally being remade into a new article. In this case, a 3D printer was used to create jewelry and small toys from the used PLA cups.
The Perpetual Plastic Project - an initiative created by former TU Delft students – has proved to be an excellent way to educate those both inside and outside the bioplastics industry on how recycling works on an industrial scale.
Recycling PLA: see it for yourself...
From 'waste' to 3D-printed jewelry. Learn how easily PLA can be recycled with this interactive demonstration using PLA drinking cups.
"The Perpetual Plastics Project initiative has demonstrated in a tangible, understandable way just how easily PLA can be recycled. Although PLA is still a relatively new material to the plastics industry, it promises to become widely implemented across a broad range of applications: Now we can show people at events and festivals what can ultimately be achieved on a much larger scale."