The scientists have created a next-generation plastic that can be fully recycled into new materials of any colour, shape, or form, without loss of performance or quality. A team of researchers at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has designed a recyclable plastic that, like a Lego playset, can be disassembled into its constituent parts at the molecular level. According to Peter Christensen, a postdoctoral researcher at Berkeley Lab, most plastics were never made to be recycled.
But he said, they have discovered a new way to assemble plastics that takes recycling into consideration from a molecular perspective. All plastics, from water bottles to automobile parts, are made up of large molecules called polymers, which are composed of repeating units of shorter carbon-containing compounds called monomers.
According to the researchers, the problem with many plastics is that the chemicals added to make them useful, such as fillers that make a plastic tough, or plasticisers that make a plastic flexible are tightly bound to the monomers and stay in the plastic even after it is been processed at a recycling plant.