The patented technology was created by Len Humphreys and Sydney University professor Thomas Maschmeyer, who say it could process plastics that cannot currently be recycled, according to a report by the ABC.
Dr Humphreys sees the mountains of stockpiled plastic as a wasted resource — one he says could be used instead as fuel or remade into new plastic.
His Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR) does just that through a form of chemical recycling that changes the plastics at a molecular level using hot water at a high pressure to turn them back into oil.
“What we’re doing is we’re simply taking those materials and converting them back to the liquids and the chemicals they came from,” he told 7.30.
From there, the oil can be turned into bitumen, petrol or back into different kinds of plastics.
Unlike traditional physical recycling, it does not require plastics to be separated according to type and colour, and can recycle anything from milk cartons to wetsuits and even wood by-products.
It also means plastic products can be recycled again and again.
After trialling the technology for the past decade at a pilot plant on the NSW central coast, the company Licella is now ready to take its idea to market.
It is opening its first commercial recycling plant in the United Kingdom, where it says the government grants and policy environment are much more favourable than in Australia.
“They incentivise the market,” said Dr Humphreys, Licella’s co-founder and chief executive officer.
“We don’t do that here. We’re not incentivising the market here.
“We’re five or six years behind the thinking of what really stimulated the market in Europe.”