We are currently facing a huge plastic waste problem. No matter where you go, to even the most beautiful and isolated places around the world, you will still probably find a piece of trash laying somewhere. While this problem has definitely gotten out of control and we need to do something fast, scientists are still looking for ways to reduce the problem. Despite the tragic state we are in, there is still hope and all of us should do our very best to support scientists who are trying to solve the problem all of us have actually caused. Luckily, researchers at Berkeley Lab might have found something that would change plastic forever.
More info: Berkeley Lab
Only around 9% of the world’s plastic is actually recycled
It’s quite often that we hear an excuse “so what if I use plastic, I will recycle it anyway”. Unfortunately, this type of thinking is never useful for the environment and it even encourages people to use even more plastic instead of educating them on the difficult process of recycling.
One of the main reasons why it is so hard to recycle plastic is the fact that it now comes in many different types so you can’t put all of it in one place, shred it, melt it, and create packaging once again. All different kinds of plastics need to be recycled in different techniques and some of it is even too expensive to be recycled (for example, polystyrene, a material often used for single use food packaging, is so difficult and costly to recycle, it almost always ends up in a landfill). Besides that, even if we do manage to recycle 9% of our plastic, it can only be recycled a couple of times until it becomes useless and is being burned or thrown in a landfill.
Because of this, we are facing a huge plastic pollution problem that will not disappear if we don’t do something quickly.
Scientists at Berkeley Lab have found a solution to the non-recyclable plastic problem
A team led by Brett Helmes has been doing research on a new type of plastic that can be recycled endless amount of times and still remain in perfect form. “Most plastics were never made to be recycled. But we have discovered a new way to assemble plastic that takes recycling into consideration from a molecular perspective,” says lead author Peter Christensen.
The main problem with the current plastic we have is the fact that chemicals that are added to the plastic to make it flexible or tougher stay in the plastic even after it’s been processed at a recycling plant.
The monomers PDK plastic that they have created can be freed from any additional chemicals simply by dunking the material in a highly acidic solution
According to Berkeley Lab news center, once PDK plastic is dumped into the acidic solution “it degrades into its molecular building blocks – monomers. The acid helps to break the bonds between the monomers and separate them from the chemical additives that give plastic its look and feel.”
The team is hoping to create a circular plastic future that stops plastic from being a single-use product
This idea of having a circular economy where products lose their “single-use” form has been a center of attention for many environmentalists who aim to reduce single-use waste that fills our landfills and oceans. If this type of infinitely recycled plastic enters our market, we will be able to finally see this material in a more positive light. Despite that, it is important to understand that it still takes an unbelievable amount of energy and resources to create plastic packaging so instead of looking for ways to make it better, we should concentrate on finding ways to consume less of it altogether.
Many were happy about this change
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