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P&G Researchers Invent Breakthrough Technology that Will Revolutionize the Recycling Industry

Tuesday, August 22, 2017 11:48 am EDT

P&G and PureCycle Technologies recently hosted a ribbon-cutting for a plant that will use a P&G-invented technology with the potential to revolutionize plastics recycling. P&G scientists figured out a way to restore recycled polypropylene plastics to "virgin-like" quality.

The new plant (located in Hanging Rock, Ohio) will leverage the patented technology born in our corporate R&D labs. We licensed the technology to PureCycle, a portfolio company of Innventure, a Wasson Enterprise Partnership that commercializes disruptive technologies. 


"Our approach to innovation not only includes products and packaging, but technologies that allow us and others to have a positive impact on our environment. This technology, which can remove virtually all contaminants and colors from used plastic, has the capacity to revolutionize the plastics recycling industry by enabling P&G and companies around the world to tap into sources of recycled plastics that deliver nearly identical performance and properties as virgin materials in a broad range of applications."  

—Kathy Fish, P&G Chief Technology Officer (pictured above, 4th from left)


The Science and Inspiration behind the Breakthrough Technology

Recycling is a vital part of who we are as a company, but it’s also a very complex system. A few years ago, Dr. John Layman, a Senior Scientist in P&G’s R&D division at the time (pictured above, second from right), was given the task to increase the amount of recycled plastics used in P&G’s products and packaging.

After analyzing and testing countless samples of recycled plastics from various suppliers, Layman and the R&D team realized that the poor quality of recycled plastic was the biggest challenge preventing P&G from using more. With the aim to improve recycled plastic quality, they developed a purification technology and worked with Innventure to bring it to life.

"P&G has been using recycled plastic for a very long time, and has been a leader in plastics recycling. However, we are limited in the amount of recycled content and the products that can use recycled plastic due to the inherently poor quality of recycled materials. Recycled plastics are typically grey in color, have a malodor and have contaminants that present regulatory concerns. Due in large part to these issues, only about 2% of all of P&G’s plastic is sourced from recycled material," said Layman, who is now a Section Head in Corporate Research and Development, and the lead inventor of P&G’s purification technology.

P&G has always wanted to use more recycled plastic in our process, but we have high standards and what was available on the market did not meet our need.

With this new technology that takes nearly all the imperfections out of the final product, it will enable us to increase our usage of recycled plastics and help us move closer to meeting our sustainability goals. While this is a P&G-developed technology, the recycled polypropylene produced by PureCycle will be widely available for purchase across the entire plastics industry.

"Presently, PureCycle is the only technology able to meet the demand for better recycled plastic. From a company perspective, this is a win all around," said Layman. "Today, consumers are increasingly expecting that the products they buy are environmentally responsible. This new technology delivers a win-win—advancing our innovative capabilities while also delivering an environmental benefit."

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