When Geoffrey Coates, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Cornell University, gives a talk about plastics and recycling, he usually opens with this question: What percentage of the 78 million tons of plastic used for packaging – for example, a 2-liter bottle or a take-out food container – actually gets recycled and re-used in a similar way?
The answer, just 2 percent. Sadly, nearly a third is leaked into the environment, around 14 percent is used in incineration and/or energy recovery, and a whopping 40 percent winds up in landfills.
One of the problems: Polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP), which account for two-thirds of the world’s plastics, have different chemical structures and thus cannot be repurposed together. Or, at least, an efficient technology to meld these two materials into one hasn’t been available in the 60 years they’ve both been on the market.
That could change with a discovery out of Coates’ lab. He and his group have collaborated with a group from the University of Minnesota to develop a multiblock polymer that, when added in small measure to a mix of the two otherwise incompatible materials, create a new and mechanically tough polymer.
The two groups’ work is detailed in a paper, “Combining polyethylene and polypropylene: Enhanced performance with PE/iPP multiblock polymers,” published online Feb. 23 in Science.
James Eagan, a postdoctoral researcher in Coates’ group, is lead author of the paper. Other collaborators included researcher Anne LaPointe and former visiting scientist Rocco DiGirolamo.
Scientists for years have tried to develop a polymer that does what Coates, LaPointe and Eagan have achieved. By adding a miniscule amount of their tetrablock (four-block) polymer – with alternating polyethylene and polypropylene segments – the resultant material has strength superior to diblock (two-block) polymers they tested.
In their test, two strips of plastic were welded together using different multi-block polymers as adhesives, then mechanically pulled apart. While the welds made with diblock polymers failed relatively quickly, the weld made of the group’s tetrablock additive held so well that the plastic strips broke instead.
“People have done things like this before,” Coates said, “but they’ll typically put 10 percent of a soft material, so you don’t get the nice plastic properties, you get something that’s not quite as good as the original material.”
“What’s exciting about this,” he said, “is we can go to as low as 1 percent of our additive, and you get a plastic alloy that really has super-great properties.”
Not only does this tetrablock polymer show promise for improving recycling, Eagan said, it could spawn a whole new class of mechanically tough polymer blends.
“If you could make a milk jug with 30 percent less material because it’s mechanically better, think of the sustainability of that,” he said. “You’re using less plastic, less oil, you have less stuff to recycle, you have a lighter product that uses less fossil fuel to move it.”
Receive an email update when we add a new PLASTICS RECYCLING article.
The Latest on: Plastics recycling
via Google News
The Latest on: Plastics recycling
- ABL launches Beta Malt plastic recycling initiativeon February 17, 2020 at 12:26 pm
Under the initiatives waste pickers in Accrawould collect ABL’s Beta Malt plastic waste bottles and deliver them to the OldFadama collection station. The collectors would then be paid for theempty ...
- Product Announcement: Plastic-to-Energy Technology by Enexor BioEnergyon February 17, 2020 at 9:32 am
Additional applications for the PTE-200 include converting residual, unrecyclable plastic waste from material recycling facilities and industrial waste applications into clean energy. Enexor’s PTE-200 ...
- Plastic Waste Recycling Market to Reach USD 85.9 Billion in 2026on February 17, 2020 at 9:10 am
New analysis from GMI Research, expects the Global Plastic Waste Recycling market to be valued at USD 39.4 billion in 2018 and it is expected to reach USD 85.9 billion in 2026 growing at a compound ...
- Ask 2: Where can I recycle plastic bags?on February 17, 2020 at 5:39 am
Plastic bags can be recycled at most grocery stores in Houston like H-E-B, Kroger, Walmart and Randalls. Contact your closest grocery store to see which types of plastic bags can be recycled. The ...
- Enexor BioEnergy Launches Plastic-To-Energy System to Help Solve World's Plastic Waste Problemon February 17, 2020 at 5:31 am
/PRNewswire/ -- Enexor BioEnergy ("Enexor"), an organic waste to energy company, announced the release of its on-site, small-scale ...
- Soft plastic recycling service expands to Snohomish Countyon February 16, 2020 at 1:30 am
For $10 a month, Ridwell will recycle things that I can’t dump in my normal recycling bin: batteries, light bulbs, clothing and plastic film. Many of my friends had already signed up and loved it. But ...
- As Recycling Languishes, Business Leaders Endorse U.S. Plastic Waste Legislationon February 15, 2020 at 6:35 am
Each of us is consuming a credit card’s worth of plastic waste each week, according to the office of U.S. Senator Tom Udall. To anyone in the know, the situation is dire. The average American consumer ...
- BASF extends plastics recycling blockchain pilot into British Columbia, Canadaon February 14, 2020 at 10:04 am
BASF SE, a German chemical company, announced the launch of a pilot of its reciChain distributed ledger blockchain platform Thursday in British Columbia, Canada, to assist with the introduction of a ...
- This Open-Source ‘Precious Plastic’ Project Is Changing What Waste Means And How Recycling Is Doneon February 12, 2020 at 4:36 am
People involved in more than 400 projects around the world are using a recycling system that they downloaded for free from the internet. It’s from an open-source project called Precious Plastic, based ...
via Bing News