Trials are under way to find advanced solutions to a notoriously difficult problem. But could a focus on recycling distract from other issues?

In a warehouse in Melbourne’s south-west, plastic confetti is being liquefied. Amid the whirring and beeping of machinery, a table displays shredded soft plastics – colourful flakes of empty chip packets, bin liners and transparent bread bags. The mound sits beside two jars of oil – that’s what the plastic will become. One is light, like olive oil. The other is as dark as tar.

The goal, says Logan Thorpe, a special projects manager at APR Plastics, is a “closed loop” of advanced recycling. Plastic waste is turned into oils, which are made into clear pellets that resemble granules of rock salt, which can then be used to produce more plastic.

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