Scientists are hard at work devising new forms of plastic that won’t contribute to the well-documented tsunami of plastic trash engulfing the world.
The latest entry is from researchers at Germany’s University of Konstanz, who call their creation polyester 2-18.
The new plastic combines an alcohol molecule with two carbon atoms with a dicarboxylic acid holding 18 carbon atoms.
The carbon gives the material plastic’s conventional toughness.
However, the material is also specially selected so that the bonds between the molecules can easily be broken by certain catalysts, allowing the plastic to dissolve back into its two constituent components.
In a lab test using naturally occurring enzymes, the plastic decomposed within two days. In an existing industrial recycling plant, a test using bacteria and other microbes broke down the new plastic over two months—still rapid by the usual timetable for plastics’ dissolution.
The researchers are working to develop the material for use in packaging and 3D printing and to design a reclamation cycle for it.
TRENDPOST: Several versions of environmentally benign plastics have been created and proven.
The barrier to adoption is the existing plastics industry, from supply chain to manufacturing through to recycling.
The beverage industry is leading the adoption of some of these new plastics. Consumer pressure, and possibly government incentives, are needed to speed their wider use.