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.