Plant-based plastic can now be recycled efficiently with a new method currently developed by scientists from the University of Konstanz. With the negative impact of plastic pollution and the inefficiency in recycling technology, a bio-based and biodegradable plastic polymer has been invented.
A recent paper revealed that hard plastic polymer can be produced with “breakpoints” in molecular carbon chains. German scientists developed two plastic options for high-density polyethylene that can be recycled easily and efficiently. This plant-based plastic can now be efficiently recycled.
The polymers in this study could be produced using plant oils rather than fossil fuels and they breakdown from polymers to monomers when they heat them to 120 degrees Celsius in methanol or ethanol.
Plastics are usually recycled mechanically. In this process, plastics are cut and sorted into pallets and then they are utilized to make new plastic materials. While the recycling of plastics chemically involves the breaking down of polymer chains of plastic and then using solvents or heat to get back the initial monomer components of the material.
This is one of the difficulties experienced when designing chemical-recycling technology. Polyethylene which is the commonest type of plastic needs at least 600 degrees Celsius to cut down those bonds in order to get back the monomers. This material is chemically recycled at a very low rate.
Stability of the hydrocarbon chains is rather a problem in that case. To break them down into small molecules needs high temperatures and is energy-intensive, and also the yields are not that good.Stefan Mecking, a researcher at the University of Konstanz