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PMMA - your material for circular design challenges?

As part of the 2022 Circular Economy Challenge, Mitsubishi Chemical have been looking for innovators throughout the plastics circular economy who want to make use of advanced low carbon footprint engineering plastics or have developed innovative recycling technologies for advanced engineering plastics.

PMMA, or acrylic, has been one of the world’s most commonly used plastics since its invention in the 1930s, used in everything from cars and homes to architecture and construction. Now, it’s moving into a fully circular future as Mitsubishi Chemical Methacrylates (MCM) drives a major recycling project.

Pictured: PMMA sheets make up a colourful, illuminated ceiling installation.

David Smith, Circular Economy Lead at MCM, says:

“PMMA can be repeatedly broken down into its original MMA molecule, which can then be used to produce brand new PMMA. There is no reduction in quality or performance, making it truly circular. By contrast, mechanical recycling reduces the performance every time PMMA is recycled, so it can only be done a limited number of times.

“Traditional methods of recycling PMMA tend to produce lower quality MMA and not all can accommodate mixed PMMA waste or even end-of-life PMMA, preferring to use much cleaner waste. Our solution delivers a very high-quality end product and can accept mixed PMMA waste as well as end-of-life PMMA.

“With the market demanding more and more recycled content and sustainability being such a key area of focus, designers, fabricators and specifiers can rest assured that choosing PMMA as their material of choice means that they are supporting the circular economy.”

Andy Rudd, Circular Economy Challenge jury member and New Business Development Manager at MCM, adds:

“PMMA is used in many rapidly transforming markets, and the main driver in many of these areas is climate change and how the carbon front print of raw materials can be reduced. The automotive sector is one such high profile market. Using circular PMMA, automotive companies can reduce the carbon front print of the parts, in particular rear taillights. There is also the opportunity for PMMA to replace other polymer types where the carbon footprint of circular PMMA is lower.

“PMMA is a very adaptable polymer which can lend itself to many application areas.  It gives start-ups the flexibility to utilise a wide range of excellent properties – in particular, its high transparency, good mechanical properties and mechanical strength, coupled with ease of processing. Additionally, using PMMA ensures that products can be designed to be sustainable in the future.”