Research from an American university has led to the design of a new type of plastic, recyclable “to infinity”.
300 million tons of plastic are produced every year worldwide, leading to big problems for the environment. At a time when its use is beginning to be limited, a team of researchers has designed a new type of polymer with serious arguments to reconcile us with plastic.
Colorado State University is about to introduce a new type of polymer (plastic material), which would put an end to a major environmental problem: recycling. A team of researchers led by Professor of Polymer Science and Sustainability Eugene Chen published the results of their research in the journal Sciences Advances.
The material in question has been dubbed PBTL, a plastic capable of “maintaining its original qualities when recycled,” New Scientist reported. This ability is far removed from the characteristics of polymers, which have always had the main defect of being able to be recycled only once at most, because their chemical structure weakens once recycled.
The secret of the PBTL lies in its design. The chemical structure using bicyclic thiolactones gave the research team a much more stable and therefore resistant plastic once recycled. This is enough to make it go beyond the stage of a second life, which is limited to the development of low-value products, and to become, for example, plastic packaging but also parts for the transport industry, and others.
Will the advance be enough to reconcile us with plastic? Unfortunately, Eugene Chen and his team still face a problem: in order to be recycled, PBTL must not be mixed with other types of polymers. In which case, the recycling phase (from 24 hours to 100 degrees Celsius) will not be optimal.