Scientists at Colorado State University have discovered a plastic polymer which, unlike typical petroleum plastics, can be recycled repeatedly without losing its quality and without the use of toxic chemicals or intensive lab procedures.
The world produces around 300 million tonnes of plastic a year. Most plastics are produced for a single use with only 5 – 10% being recycled. A major problem with current recycling techniques is that the resulting plastic is of low quality and can’t be recycled again.
The Colorado State researchers have developed a plastic that can be produced from a ring-shaped molecule (based on γ-butyrolactone) in just a few minutes at room temperature without the need for harsh solvents. in the presence of a mild zinc chloride catalyst, the plastic returns to its ring-shaped building blocks and can be recycled into new material.
The plastic is just as strong as current commercial plastics and can be recycled and reused indefinitely.
So far, the new polymer technology has only been demonstrated at the academic lab scale. The researchers are now working on perfecting the patent-pending monomer and polymer production processes