Tuesday, 21 May, 2019


Scientists Develop Plastic That Can Be Recycled Repeatedly... But Does it Matter?

Marilyn Chung  Berkeley Lab
Researchers who discovered new recyclable plastic Marilyn Chung Berkeley Lab Researchers who discovered new recyclable plastic
Kristine Garrett | 11 May, 2019, 14:41

Unfortunately, some plastics just don't recycle as easily as others, limiting how well we can reuse them in new products. Well, unlike aluminum or glass, plastic can only be recycled a finite number of times - usually once or twice, according to Earth911.

Berkeley Lab scientists have announced the development of a new plastic that can be recycled many times over again, including in different shapes and colors, without experiencing quality loss.

Researchers at the US Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed a new kind of plastic that they say will allow for endless recycling of plastic that often ends up in a landfill or worse.

"Most plastics were never made to be recycled", says lead scientist Peter Christensen in a statement. Polymers are composed of shorter strands called monomers.

This means that instead of a container becoming another new container, it becomes a different, less useful product instead of completing the "recycling loop". To create items such as water bottles, bags, multi-colored straws, and stretchy foodservice wrap, manufacturers add various chemicals and fillers to give plastics desired qualities-which makes recycling different plastics together hard as the end result is unpredictable and/or undesirable.

Around 700,000 plastic bottles a day end up as litter.

"But we have discovered a new way to assemble plastics that takes recycling into consideration from a molecular perspective", Christensen said. The hope is that recycling facilities could also be upgraded to process the new plastic. That estimate, of course, is fairly meaningless when you consider the fact plastic continues to be produced in such quantities that the World Economic Forum estimates that the weight ratio of plastic garbage to fish in the ocean will be more than 1:1 by 2050.

The full study was published last month in the journal Nature Chemistry.

Now all plastics are made up of large molecules called polymers, which in turn are made up of shorter carbon-containing compounds called monomers.

One of the challenges with plastics is that even those marketed as recyclables are not used again.

Plastic pollution in the world's oceans may have a $A3.6 trillion impact, negatively affecting "almost all marine ecosystem services", including areas such as fisheries, recreation and heritage. The acid helps to break the bonds between the monomers and separate them from the chemical additives that give plastic its look and feel.

"With PDKs, the immutable bonds of conventional plastics are replaced with reversible bonds that allow the plastic to be recycled more effectively."

If all goes well, we could be on the verge of a plastic revolution. "We see an opportunity to make a difference for where there are no recycling options".

Plastic recycling figures are trending down, making breakthroughs in recyclable plastic all the more important.

Recycling reusable materials is a key effort in reducing resource consumption and waste, but now available materials make that hard.

Want more of today's best plant-based news, recipes, and lifestyle? In addition, they are looking to expand the formulations by incorporating plant-based materials and other sustainable sources.

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