The results of ‘many years’ of research could lead to a new recycling process that could ‘significantly increase’ recycling and reuse of common PET and plant-based plastics in the future.

While plastics are recyclable, the resulting materials are often limited to ‘second generation reuse’ only.

Meaning materials made from recycled plastic bottles are generally disposed of in landfills, according to the team.

And in the United States alone up to 63 pounds of plastic packaging per-person is disposed of each year, instead of being repeatedly recycled.

The IBM-Stanford breakthrough in green chemistry could, the team states, lead to a new recycling process to reverse the polymerisation process to regenerate monomers in their original state, reducing waste and pollution significantly.

The results, which were published this week in the American Chemical Society journal Macromolecules, are according to IBM and Stanford scientists, a ‘fundamental shift in the field’.

“We’re exploring new methods of applying technology and our expertise in materials science to create a sustainable, environmentally sound future,” said Josephine Cheng, IBM fellow and vice president of research.

“The development of new families of organic catalysts brings more versatility to green chemistry and opens the door for novel applications, such as making biodegradable plastics, improving the recycling process and drug delivery.”

Luke Walsh

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