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.
Researchers at the US Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have designed a new kind of plastic polymer that can be broken down and built up again with the simplicity of a molecular Lego brick.
"But we have discovered a new way to assemble plastics that takes recycling into consideration from a molecular perspective", Christensen said. Called poly (diketoenamine), or PDK, the new material could help unblock the plastic pileup at recycling plants and ease ocean pollution that could be sucking $2.5 trillion from sectors including fisheries, tourism, and human health, according to one study. Unfortunately, those upsides are also bad news for the environment, as plastic waste continues to pile up despite recycling efforts and public awareness campaigns.
The specialists initially found the energizing roundabout property of PDK-based plastics when Christensen was applying different acids to china used to make PDK cements, and saw that the cement's creation had changed.
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.
A by-product of petroleum, plastic is made up of molecules known as polymers that are composed of carbon-containing compounds known as monomers.
Christensen and his colleagues claim that mixing the chemical compositions of different plastics together during the recycling process reduces the quality and reusability of the new plastic product.
When the plastics are chopped up in an effort to make new products, it's hard to predict "which properties it will inherit from the original plastics", the researchers added.
"We're interested in the chemistry that redirects plastic lifecycles from linear to circular", said Helms. But not all. We might be able to throw our polyethylene terephthalate (PET) drink bottles into the recycling bin, but not a tough, thermoset plastic toy or utensil.
Right now, this plastic only exists in the lab. "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. Their breakthrough was published in Nature Chemistry.
So, when a reusable shopping bag made with recycled plastic gets threadbare with wear and tear, it can't be upcycled or even recycled to make a new product.
"If these products and companies had been created to recycle or upcycle PDK and linked plastics, then we could presumably be ready to extra effectively divert plastic from landfills and the oceans", Helms talked about.
To the eternal confusion of consumers everywhere, some of those plastics can be broken down into components and recycled relatively easily.
Light yet sturdy, plastic is great - until you no longer need it.