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Chemistry may have solutions to our plastic trash problem, Plastics recycling with microbes and worms is further away than people think, Chemical and biochemical approaches take aim at plastic pollution

Rethinking recycling


By —— Bio and Archives--June 21, 2018

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Chemical and biochemical approaches take aim at plastic pollution
Recycling plastic water bottles has never been more convenient, with bins available almost everywhere. Although Americans are recycling in record numbers, millions of tons of plastic trash continue to accumulate in the environment. Solving this problem will require new solutions for breaking plastics down and reusing them, according to a three-part cover story in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly news magazine of the American Chemical Society.

Globally, only about 14 percent of plastic packaging is collected for recycling, writes Assistant Editor Sam Lemonick. And of the plastic that does get recycled, most ends up in a lower-quality product than the starting material. Current recycling technology mechanically shreds, melts and reforms plastic, which partially degrades the polymers and reduces quality. Scientists are trying to develop new recycling methods that use chemical or biological approaches.

On the chemical side, some researchers are identifying new reactions to break down plastics to make the building blocks for new polymers and other high-value products. Others are working on making new types of plastics that degrade easily, writes Lemonick. According to Senior Correspondent Carmen Drahl, still others are looking at biological approaches, such as plastic-munching microbes and worms. Although some media outlets have exaggerated the usefulness of these organisms – most are very slow, inefficient and degrade only the most fragile plastics – researchers are making progress in this field. However, they face many challenges, such as identifying the critters’ enzymes that break down plastic, producing large quantities, and making them faster and more efficient through biotechnology.

Recycling needs a revamp

Chemistry may have solutions to our plastic trash problem

Plastics recycling with microbes and worms is further away than people think


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American Chemical Society -- Bio and Archives | Comments

American Chemical Society, ACS is a congressionally chartered independent membership organization which represents professionals at all degree levels and in all fields of chemistry and sciences that involve chemistry.


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