Not only is manufacturing new plastics incredibly wasteful, but it uses starter materials derived from fossil fuels that need to stay in the ground if we want to avert climate change. To make a small dent in that global problem, two materials scientists from Boise State University in the US have just developed a new kind of plastic that, unlike existing plastics, isn’t made from crude oil and its derivatives.

What’s more, small-scale lab experiments replicating industrial processes suggest roughly 93 percent of the new plastic could be recycled into clean starter materials – even when the plastic is mixed in with other unprocessed plastic waste, paper, and aluminum. In their paper, Allison Christy and Scott Phillips describe making a new type of plastic based on poly(ethyl cyanoacrylate) or PECA, which is prepared from the monomer used to make Super Glue.

If manufactured at industrial scales, Christy and Phillips suggest their new, recyclable PECA plastic could replace polystyrene plastics that are not accepted in most curbside recycling programs. When it comes to recycling, Christy and Phillips showed how the long polymer chains of the PECA plastic can be thermally ‘cracked’ at temperatures of 210 °C and the resulting monomers distilled into a clean product to use again. Meanwhile, a recent report from Greenpeace USA found that only about 5 percent of plastics are currently recycled in the United States, after China’s recycling industry stopped taking other countries’ plastic waste.

Source: Science Alert

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