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New CRP: Recycling of Polymer Waste for Structural and Non-Structural Materials by using Ionizing Radiation (F23036)

New Coordinated Research Project

(Photo: Boucher, J. and Friot D. 2017)

Pollution caused by plastics and rubber has become an issue of global concern. Polymeric materials (plastics and rubbers) comprise a steadily increasing proportion of the municipal and industrial waste that is either poorly managed or accumulating in landfills. Since polymeric materials do not decompose easily, disposal of waste polymers is a serious, long-term environmental problem with most plastics gradually disintegrating to form microparticles which finally arrive in the oceans.

Radiation technology can be used to alleviate this problem.  Some promising results indicate that radiation technology is able to convert plastic waste into a variety of useful purposes presenting powerful opportunities for environmental sustainability and material innovations.

Particularly, high-energy radiation can be used to degrade and modify polymer wastes so that it can be reused in multiple ways – in materials such as concrete and asphalt, for example, as well as new plastic products or more efficient and non-toxic fuel components for energy recovery. Establishing optimal processes for the recycling of polymeric materials is a worldwide challenge that will benefit from efficient and cost-effective technologies to reduce the impact of polymer waste, while increasing recycling rates. These methods can open the possibility of developing working alternatives to make plastic recovery technologies affordable for small and medium scale industries to mitigate industrial waste issues.

The IAEA is launching a new five-year Coordinated Research Project (CRP) on strategic approaches for recycling plastics and rubber with radiation technologies.

The overall objective of this CRP is the applied research and development, demonstration, and scaling-up of feasibility studies to optimize the recycling of plastic waste by radiation technologies.

Overview of the plastics value chain, and where radiation technologies might be used to improve recucling effectiveness. (Source: adaptation of the UNEP/CHW/PWPWG.1/INF/4)


Specific Research Objectives

1. To adapt the radiation process to develop novel materials for high performance structural and non-structural applications:   

a) breaking down plastic polymers into smaller components to generate chemical feedstocks or additives for the production of consumer products

b) modifying the polymer wastes for their repurposing into structural and non-structural composites as fillers, binders and displacers

c) generating functionalized materials to produce advanced materials through radiation-induced grafting designed for environmental compatibility;

d) facilitating electrostatic separation of polyolefins to improve the feedstock quality;

e) producing a beneficial effect that eliminates toxic compounds when polymers are used for energy recovery.

2. To promote International collaborations among Member States involving industries, research institutions and foundations, universities and other environmental and manufacturing enterprises;

3. To generate feasibility studies for developing a pilot recycling project, and design and development guidelines;

4. To create a collaborative interdisciplinary network of radiation technology experts and their laboratories to address the current challenges in recycling of plastic wastes; to work jointly to develop innovative formulations and methodologies, and to establish advanced structure-properties relationships for the design and for the scaling-up of plastic waste recycling facilities for specific uses.

How to join this CRP

General information about how many contracts and agreements will be awarded

Please submit your Proposal for Research Contract or Agreement by email, no later than 11 December 2020, to the IAEA’s Research Contracts Administration Section, using the appropriate template on the CRA web portal. Note that the same template can be used for both research contract and technical contract.

For further information related to this CRP, potential applicants should use the contact form under the CRP page


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