Scientists have developed new way to break down plant-based plastics into their original building blocks, potentially allowing products to be recycled repeatedly without a loss in the quality of the plastic.
Around 45% of plastic waste is recycled annually in the UK and is on the increase. However one of the problems with current plastic recycling methods is that you end up with a lower quality plastic with worse properties than the original. This means that plastic drinks bottles cannot simply be recycled into new drinks bottles continuously, but instead are used for other lower grade products such as water pipes, park benches and traffic cones.
Now scientists from the Universities of Bath and Birmingham have developed a new way of chemical recycling — converting plastics back into their constituent chemical molecules — so that they can be used to make new plastics of the same quality as the original.
The team’s method, published in ChemSusChem, uses lower temperatures and more environmentally-friendly catalysts than previous methods.
Professor Matthew Jones, from the Centre for Sustainable & Circular Technologies at the University of Bath, said: “Most plastic is currently recycled using mechanical methods, where they are chipped into granules and melted down before being moulded into something new.
Read more at University of Bath