Plastic: that's one of the worst pandemics for the seas. Thousands of tons are sailing the seas polluting everything in sight.Yet plastic is much needed in many environments. Can we have a better plastic?
Only about 9% of plastic we use is recycled. The rest accumulates in landfills and contaminates the oceans. The best thing in all cases is to avoid using plastic products. But that is almost impossible: everything (almost literally) has plastic in it.
A group of scientists in Berkeley, California, is trying to change the material so that it can be recycled endlessly. They hope this will reduce the volume of waste. The name given to the transformed material is PDK.
As they explain, the difference with PDK is that it can retain its strength and value each time it is recycled, unlike the plastic we know.
Why should you care?
Unlike glass or aluminum, plastics can only be recycled a limited number of times. This is because of the residual impurities and degradation of the polymer's properties that occur in each reuse cycle.
In addition, dyes and other chemicals added to the material make it even more difficult to recycle. Thus, after being recycled once or twice, it can only be used to manufacture objects that can no longer be recycled and end up in landfills.
This new plastic retains its high-value components (monomers) which can be recovered and used to make new materials. However, monomer recovery is often expensive, incompatible with complex mixtures and very energy-consuming.
The ease with which they can be manufactured, used, recycled and reused, without losing value, points to new directions in polymer design