Scientists Haritz Sardón, Ainara Sangroniz, and Agustin Etxeberria at the UPV/EHU’s Faculty of Chemistry, along with the scientists, Jian-Bo and Xiaoyan Tang Eugene Y.-X. Chen Zhu at Colorado State University, have created fully recyclable plastic that endorses the circular economy for plastic packaging materials where design and manufacturing fully adjust to requirements about reusing and recycling. Their research has been published recently in Nature Communications and constitutes a step forward in fixing the problem of plastic.
In the quest to solve this problem, biodegradable supplies have aroused great interest. In the right conditions, these polymers degrade to form carbon dioxide, water, biomass, etc. “Poly(lactic acid) is among the most promising biodegradable polymers. Yet its high rigidity and low barrier character mean that this material is not right for replacing commercial materials,” he explained.
That accounts for the recent development in the importance of chemical recycling. “Once materials of this kind reach the end of their service life,” the UPV/EHU researcher added, “they are often recycled chemically, and the original monomer or new monomers can be derived. The monomer can be reused to synthesize the fabric once more.”
“This work explores two chemically recyclable homopolymers: poly(gamma-butyrolactone), which displays suitable mechanical properties, but high permeability to varied gases and vapors. By contrast, poly(trans-hexahydrophthalide) shows the opposite properties: it is extremely rigid and has low permeability. So we opted to develop copolymers by combining both compounds”, he concluded.