Unfortunately, those upsides are also awful news for the environment, as plastic waste continues to pile up despite recycling efforts and public awareness campaigns. Well, unlike aluminum or glass, plastic can only be recycled a finite number of times - usually once or twice, according to Earth911.
The Berkeley Lab says most of these chemical substances had beforehand prevented plastic from achieving "the holy grail of recycling", and that PDK plastic could presumably very neatly be the acknowledge.
But a new research effort led by scientists at Berkeley Lab could provide a solution in the form of plastics that are designed from the ground up to be fully recyclable.
"We're at a critical point where we need to think about the infrastructure needed to modernize recycling facilities for future waste sorting and processing", lead researcher Brett Helms said in a statement to Berkeley Lab News Center.
This means that instead of a container becoming another new container, it becomes a different, less useful product instead of completing the "recycling loop". Once chemicals are added to the plastic for use and consumption, the monomers bind with the chemicals and make it hard to be processed at recycling plants, the researchers said.
Despite the efforts of countries around the world to reduce or end the use of plastic, the amount of plastic in the world's oceans is increasing, and spreading across the planet. But a novel discovery gives hope, and can revolutionize the model we take care of plastic. The goal is to improve the recycling process so that fewer plastics end up in landfills or oceans.
All plastics are more or less repeating units - or monomers - of compounds derived from an organic substance like petroleum.
A type of polymer, called polydiketoenamine, or PDK, can be successfully separated from additives after it is dunked in a highly acidic solution, which leaves behind the original monomers. "With PDKs, the changeless obligations of ordinary plastics are supplanted with reversible bonds that enable the plastic to be reused all the more adequately", Helms said.
All plastics are made up of different monomers that bond with different chemicals to take on unique properties, such as additives that strengthen the plastic to make it tough and sturdy or others that make the plastic more pliable and stretchy.
"We're interested in the chemistry that redirects plastic lifecycles from linear to circular", says Helms. "We see an opportunity to make a difference for where there are no recycling options".
Next, they proved that the recovered PDK monomers can be remade into polymers, and those recycled polymers can form new plastic materials without inheriting the color or other features of the original material - so that broken black watchband you tossed in the trash could find new life as a computer keyboard if it's made with PDK plastic. Researcher Peter Christensen was applying different acids to glass used to make PDK adhesives, when he noticed that the adhesive's composition had changed back to its original monomers.
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