A study describing the new recycling method has been published in the journal Science.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill have discovered a method of breaking down plastics to create new materials that are tougher and stronger than the original material. Plastics are traditionally difficult to recycle due to the strength of their carbon-hydrogen chemical bonds, but UNC chemists identified a new reagent to help them break these bonds.
"Our approach views plastic waste as a potentially valuable resource for the production of new molecules and materials. We hope this method could drive an economic incentive to recycle plastic, literally turning trash into treasure," said Frank Leibfarth, assistant professor of chemistry in the UNC College of Arts & Sciences.
A low-density plastic known as polyolefin, used for packaging consumer electronics, is a polymer that researchers could strip hydrogen atoms from selectively to create a higher-value plastic known as an ionomer. A popular example of an ionomer is Dow's SURLYN, widely used in food packaging.
"The versatility of our approach is that it enables many valuable transformations of carbon-hydrogen bonds on such a wide range of important compounds," said UNC-Chapel Hill professor Erik Alexanian.
You can read more from the study here.
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