• Turning plant-based plastics into chemical molecules

    Date:13 February 2020 Author: Kyro Mitchell Tags:,

    Over recent years, a growing trend in plastic production involves using plants as the source material for bioplastics. The issue with this method of creating plastic comes when its time to begin the recycling process.

    When plant-based plastics are recycled to its original building blocks the end product is viewed as worse than the original, or a lower quality plastic. This means that once the plastic had been recycled it would be too low-quality to be used to contain things like food and beverages. Instead it would be made into low-grade products like traffic cones, water pipes, and park benches.

    To remedy this problem, scientist from the University of Birmingham and the University of Bath, have developed a new method that would allow for repeatedly recycling plant-based plastics without any loss in quality by converting the plastics back into their constituent chemical molecules. They achieve this by combining a new form of chemical recycling with low temperatures and more environmentally-friendly catalyst when compared to conventional methods of recycling.

    According to Professor Matthew Jones from the University of Bath, “the problem is, melting plastic changes its properties, and reduces the quality, which limits the range of products in which it can be used.

    “Our method of chemical recycling overcomes this problem by breaking down plastic polymers into their chemical building blocks, so they can be used all over again to make virgin plastic without losing any properties.”

    “There is no single solution to the problem of plastic waste, the approach has to be a combination of reducing, reusing and recycling. Our method of chemical recycling could allow carbon to be recycled indefinitely, creating a circular economy rather than digging more up from the ground in the form of fossil fuels, or releasing it into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas,” said Dr Paul McKeown from the University of Bath.

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