Keep materials in use as long as possible and then start all over again
If we really want to use the earth’s resources responsibly, we have to face the fact that a major systemic behavioral change is needed. We should consume less and if we consume keep the products in use as long as possible. Choose quality products, repair them when needed and give them away if you do not need them anymore.
After all these steps at some point a product is beyond repair. Only at that moment is recycling to be considered and a better alternative compared to composting (as it creates CO2 instead of useful materials), incineration and of course landfill. Arapaha only uses materials that lend themselves well to recycling. Our products are designed so that they can be easily dismantled into mono-material streams or if combinations are used, we have validated that these combinations do not impede efficient recycling.
One of the products we use is polylactic acid, which seen from a chemistry point of view is a so-called polycondensate, just like for instance polyester. This makes it extremely well positioned for both thermal mechanical as well as molecular recycling. At Arapaha we have developed our own proprietary molecular recycling technology for PLA, building on our partnership with CuRe Technology. In collaboration with TNO we have reviewed the carbon footprint of all the available options, and as one can see from the figure below, both mechanical recycling and Arapaha’s molecular recycling technology have a very good carbon footprint simply because the materials that are created in the recycling can be used again. Mechanical recycling does have its limitations in the type of feedstock it can accept, especially when colored products of more complex combinations of PLA are used. The infrastructure for large scale PLA recycling is still in its infancy, but several initiatives are ongoing to be implemented soon. And until the infrastructure is completed, we will not waste any product, but store it as feedstock for future recycling plants.