Recycling plastic: Vinyl polymer broken down…

Recycling plastic: Vinyl polymer broken down to aspirin components

Before you read this, look around your room. How much of your surroundings are made of plastic? The chair that you sit on, the desk, the casing on your computer and monitor, the pen you use, the carpet, the shoes you wear, your clothes, your bag, the soda bottle you sip from, the furniture, the walls and even the plumbing—how many items can you identify that are plastic?

Depending on where you reside, the majority of the things around you might be made of different types of plastic. Now, if you’re outside, various parts of your car, the buses and trains, even the interior of airplanes are mostly plastic. Currently there are not many methods to recycle plastics efficiently without compromising quality. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that not a day goes by without news of microplastics in our oceans and possibly in our food supply.

A beacon of hope was recently lit at Shinshu University where Professor Yasuhiro Kohsaka and his graduate student Akane Kazama discovered acid hydrolysis of a vinyl polymer broke down into salicylic acid and acetic acid. These acids form aspirin through some reactions. Vinyl is the second most common plastic in the world today. Previous recyclable vinyl had been too unstable to work with at room temperature, and was not suitable for practical use.

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Melting scrapped devices as sustainable need…

Melting scrapped devices as sustainable needs heat up

Melting metals from scrapped electronic devices are among solutions for the sustainable supply of critical materials being investigated by University of Queensland researchers.

UQ’s Pyrometallurgy Innovation Centre (PYROSEARCH) Director Professor Eugene Jak said the metals were needed for a new generation of electrical devices, including solar panels, computers, smart phones, electric cars and more.

“Part of the answer to ensuring a consistent supply lies in our existing electronic devicesand how we dispose of them when they reach the end of their life-cycle,” Professor Jak said.

“A smart phone alone can hold up to 20 different metals, which could be re-used in other technologies.

"By melting down these devices in high temperature processes, the critical metals can be retrieved and separated back into their original forms to be used again.”

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Sustainable wearables for Wimbledon


All images: Adidas 

By Idha Valeur 

The all-white clothes range for Wimbledon, designed by Stella McCartney, is also going green by using recycled materials. 

In this new range of tennis-wear Adidas and McCartney are taking steps towards sustainability by creating the clothes out of recycled polyester, a synthetic fibre created using waste materials like plastic bottles and previously used clothing items that have been cleaned and processed again to turn them into new fibres ready for a new purpose. 

As well as using recycled polyester, the collection is also made by using parley ocean plastic, which is a material developed from upcycled plastic waste which was picked up and hindered from entering the oceans at beaches and coastal areas before being turned into yarn, according to a press release. 

Not only is the clothes made from recycled materials, with a better environmental footprint, but the technology used to create the range – dope dye technology – is also greening the line. The method wastes less water by incorporating colour directly into the material mix at the beginning stage in the production process. 

‘Therefore, when the fibre is formed, it is already the desired colour and as a result, reduces wastewater by at least 10 litres per garment,’ the release stated. 

The range, sold by Adidas, is available to purchase online now and the range can be seen on Wimbledon players such as Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki and Alexander Zverev. 


Upcycling process brings new life to old jeans

A growing population, rising standards of living and quickly changing fashions send mountains of clothing waste to the world’s landfills each year. Although processes for textile recycling exist, they tend to be inefficient and expensive. Now, researchers have reported in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering an efficient, low-cost method that can convert waste denim into viscose-type fibers that are either white or the original color of the garment.

Cotton-based clothing, such as denim, makes up a large proportion of textile waste. Meanwhile, farming cotton consumes land and resources. Efficiently converting waste denim into reusable cotton fibers could help address both of these problems. Previously, researchers have used ionic liquids – salts that are liquid, not solid – to dissolve cotton textiles into their cellulose building blocks. The cellulose was then spun into new viscose-type fibers that could be woven into textiles. However, ionic liquids are expensive and difficult to work with because of their high viscosity. Nolene Byrne and colleagues wanted to find a way to reduce the amount of ionic liquid solvent required to recycle denim into regenerated cellulose fibers.

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Recycled PET used in timber-look, noise-absorb…


By Anthony Caggiano

WoodBeQuiet panels installed on the ceiling to reduce noise in an office in San Diego, USA. All images: Acoufelt

Recycled plastic has been used to develop a series of noise-absorbing panels designed to look like timber.

The WoodBeQuiet range of planks by Acoufelt are made from polyester fibres with more than 60% recycled content. 

PET-based recycled plastic beverage bottles that normally would go to the landfill are cleaned and then cut into flakes before being melted and extruded into fibres of natural white colour. These regenerated fibres are then carded and thermo bounded to form rigid, acoustic panels.

But the extra magic lay in how they could be sound-absorbing. 

Panels used on a wall installation.

Acoufelt Marketing Manager – Global, Lucy Pittman, told Materials World the planks are made by a print technology process where the colour is targeted to the areas of the panel, while ensuring air-gaps in the porous material remain open to absorbing noise. The net result is a printing technique that is high resolution, and has no significant impact on the acoustic performance of the base material.

‘Many other high-resolution printing techniques involve laying down a hard-setting paint or ink over the top of the base surface. This can result in a filling of the air gaps in the porous surface of an acoustic material, inhibiting noise absorption,’ she said. 

‘Other printing techniques allow the colour to “run” in the material, like a drop of ink on a blotting sheet. This can result in poor resolution as the fine edge of the images blur.’

The panels can be used for walls and ceilings, and applied to hard surfaces including screens, partitions and ceiling baffles. 

Electron beam strengthens recyclable nanocom…

Electron beam strengthens recyclable nanocomposite

Polymers reinforced with carbon fibers combine strength and low weight. They also boast significant green credentials as they are less resource-intensive during production and use, and they are readily recycled. While the mechanical properties of continuous-fiber laminates are sufficiently competitive for applications in aerospace and automobiles, composites reinforced with short carbon fibers could be attractive for fast-manufacture, and even 3-D printing for applications with more moderate strength requirements. As a result, there is keen interest in optimizing the mechanical properties of short-fiber reinforced thermoplastics to maximize on the potential of these materials. László Szabó and Kenji Takahashi and colleagues at Kanazawa University and Kanazawa Institute of Technology have now demonstrated that irradiating short carbon fiber thermoplastics with an electron beam can improve their mechanical properties.

The researchers limited their study to polymers that so that the resulting composite could be readily recycled and remolded into other forms. With environmentally friendly concerns in mind they focused the study on the biobased cellulose propionate for the composite matrix. Their study included investigation of the effects of electron beamirradiation on the strength for polymers functionalized with esters to increase crosslinking, and enhanced with carbon fibers, as well as different forms during irradiation (dumbbells and pellets) and long and short extrusion nozzles.

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New Frontiers for Recyclable Polymers Many …

New Frontiers for Recyclable Polymers

Many modern plastics, rubbers and ceramics cannot be recycled, but new polymers made from waste sulfur are promising to solve one of the planet’s biggest recycling problems – and even create new industries of the future. 

Researchers around the world have taken the next step to develop a range of these versatile and recyclable materials by controlling and improving their physical and mechanical properties to make them closer to scale up for manufacture. 

Sulfur polymers are already being used in next-generation batteries, IR imaging (such as night-vision lenses), environmental remediation, and agriculture, but it has been difficult to control the hardness, flexibility, colour and other key properties of these polymers.

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Plastic gets a do-over: Breakthrough discove…

Plastic gets a do-over: Breakthrough discovery recycles plastic from the inside out

Scientists have made a next-generation plastic that can be recycled again and again into new materials of any color, shape, or form

Light yet sturdy, plastic is great – until you no longer need it. Because plastics contain various additives, like dyes, fillers, or flame retardants, very few plastics can be recycled without loss in performance or aesthetics. Even the most recyclable plastic, PET – or poly(ethylene terephthalate) – is only recycled at a rate of 20-30%, with the rest typically going to incinerators or landfills, where the carbon-rich material takes centuries to decompose.

Now a team of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has designed a recyclable plastic that, like a Lego playset, can be disassembled into its constituent parts at the molecular level, and then reassembled into a different shape, texture, and color again and again without loss of performance or quality. The new material, called poly(diketoenamine), or PDK, was reported in the journal Nature Chemistry.

“Most plastics were never made to be recycled,” said lead author Peter Christensen, a postdoctoral researcher at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry. “But we have discovered a new way to assemble plastics that takes recycling into consideration from a molecular perspective.”

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Chemists make thermoset polymer using amine …

Chemists make thermoset polymer using amine and triketone that is recyclable

A team of researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has devised a way to make a type of recyclable thermoset plastic. In their paper published in the journal Nature Chemistry, the group describes combining two particular types of monomers to form a common type of polymer that can be recycled using an acid. Coralie Jehanno and Haritz Sardon with the University of the Basque Country UPV/EHU have published a News and Views piece outlining the work by the team in California in the same journal issue.

Plastics have become an environmental problem. Companies make them and use them in a wide variety of applications. Other businesses and consumers make use of the plastics and then discard them. But because they do not degrade very rapidly, they are building up in landfills and the ocean. One particular polymer, known as a thermoset, is particularly troublesome because it is widely used and does not recycle easily. In this new effort, the researchers report a way to make a type of thermoset that can be broken down into its component parts using an acid and then recycled.

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