The problem of waste plastic will be with us for decades or even centuries. Countries like the US are barely managing to recycle a quarter of their PET waste. But something changed right now.
Scientists at the US Department of Energy'sLawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California discovered a new way to assemble the plastics and reuse them "into new materials of any color, shape, or form." “Most plastics were never made to be recycled. But we have discovered a new way to assemble plastics that takes recycling into consideration from a molecular perspective,” said lead author Peter Christensen, a postdoctoral researcher at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry. The new type of plastic material is known as polydiketoenamine or PDK.
Unlike conventional plastics, the monomers of PDK plastic can be recovered and freed from any additives simply by dunking the material in a highly acidic solution. The researchers believe that their new recyclable plastic could be a good alternative to many nonrecyclable plastics in use today. Next plan is to develop PDK plastics with a wide range of thermal and mechanical properties for applications as diverse as textiles, 3D printing and foams. This is what the future of plastics looks like.