Plastic has become an integral part of our daily life. Every day to day product contains a certain amount of plastic. Plastic is light, strong, easily mouldable, and cheap, making it ideal for multitudes of applications. Unlike other materials, plastic doesn’t recycle well and takes a very long time to decay. According to EPA, only 30% of the most widely used plastic, Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), gets recycled, and the rest ends up in landfills.
When single-use plastic is recycled by melting at high temperatures, it turns into a black or grey starting material. Only a few companies want to use it. Hence scientists have been looking for ways to recycle plastic effectively so industries can reuse them.
A team of researchers from the U.S., China, and Saudi Arabia made a breakthrough with a new kind of plastic that maintains its original qualities when recycled. Their research is published in the journal Science Advances.
They made the new plastic by preparing a bridged bicyclic thiolactone monomer from a bio-based olefin carboxylic acid. The result is new plastic, the researcher called PBTL, which had all the qualities of traditional plastic.
The new plastic was subjected to a test by conducting bulk depolymerization using a catalyst at 100°C. The PBTL broke down into its original monomer. A monomer is a molecule that can be bonded into other identical molecules to form a polymer. Room temperature breaking down of PBTL using a catalyst resulted in similar results.
The team used these monomers to create the PBTL again, proving this new plastic can be broken down and created again repeatedly. This new material has the same qualities as conventional plastic and can be used to make a host of our day to day products. However, care should be taken to separate them from conventional plastic before recycling.
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