Plastic Pollution in Oceans and Land
The vast majority of the more than 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic created since the 1950s has ended up in landfills. In recent years, the scale of plastic pollution — and the harm it causes wildlife — has created a backlash against plastic production in general. Most plastics were never made to be recycled, but investing in new ways to assemble plastics that takes recycling into consideration from a molecular perspective could help eliminate some of this waste.
If you’ve ever wondered why there are so many recycling codes on the bottom of plastic containers, it’s because most types of plastic are hard to process and two different types of plastic often require different methods of recycling. Even plastic that manages to get recycled is rarely “upcycled” into a higher quality material or recycled into the same quality material. Instead, most plastic that gets recycled turns into something of lower quality, because the recycling process often degrades the original material in some way, whether through contamination or wear-and-tear.
A team of researchers developed a type of plastic that’s infinitely recyclable. The plastic, poly(diketoenamine), or PDK, could provide companies with a closed-loop solution, meaning raw materials can be infinitely reused, to the global problem of plastic waste by dramatically improving global recycling rates.