Scientists develop new method for plastic recycling

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Argonne National Laboratory have introduced a new catalytic method in order to curb the plastic pollution on a global scale.

“We asked ourselves the question, ‘Plastic, plastic everywhere: What can we do about it in terms of chemical recycling?’” Spoke Max Delferro, group leader of the Catalysis Science Program in the Chemical Sciences and Engineering division, with regards to the latest study.

Plastic has become an integral part of the human life today. Plastic is not only convenient but is also essential for medical devices and food packaging. In order to meet the growing demand of plastic, manufacturers are now producing 400 million tons of plastic annually worldwide. The number is alleged to grow fourfold by 2050.

Sources allege over three-quarters of single-use plastics is thrown away and is further left untreated in landfills or in the environment. It takes over thousands of year to decompose. Scientists are therefore finding out ways to convert single-use plastic into cosmetics, detergents and other high-quality products such as lubricant oils.

Experts suggest that while some of the waste plastic can be recycled, the product obtained is usually of lower quality and less value than original polymer. Team of scientists have therefore developed a catalytic method for converting discarded plastics into products of higher quality such as waxes and lubricant oil. The waxes can further be processed into daily-use products such as cosmetics and detergents.

Plastics such as polythene cannot be degraded easily owning to strong carbon-carbon bonds. The catalyst contains platinum nanoparticles, each of which is two nanometers in size. It is held in place on perovskite nanocuboids which are about hundred nanometers in size. Experts allege perovskite is stable under demanding temperatures and pressures are necessary for catalysis. The material is hence proven to be especially good for energy conservation.

Furthermore, with the help of theoretical calculations, the team found main features which contribute to the effectiveness of catalyst.