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Virginia Tech researchers have found a way to successfully upcycle plastic into soap.

August 17, 2023

1 Min Read
soap MR1540.jpg
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Virginia Tech researchers have found a way to successfully upcycle plastic into soap.

“We can break the polyethylene chains into small segments,” said Guoliang (Greg) Liu, an associate professor of chemistry at Virginia Tech.

This process is completed by using heat. Small segments become high-value chemicals which are used to make things such as soap.

Polyethylene, one of the most common plastics today used in a ton of different products, contains a similar chemical structure to the fatty acid used as a chemical in soap. Both being made of long carbon chains.

“What we have done so far is a proof of concept,” Liu said. “When we designed the process, we designed it in a way that we can scale it up.”

Their work was just published in the journal Science earlier this month.

Liu goes on to confirm that 120 to 130 grams of plastic can produce 100 grams of soap.

“In terms of an environmental greenhouse gas reduction, this is a great approach,” Liu said.

Adding to that, microplastics and PFAS have been considered in this process, and, according to Liu, they shouldn’t be an issue here.

“If you look at the process, any microplastics cannot survive and they cannot get onto the next step of the reaction. So, all the microplastics are gone, given the reaction process,” Liu said.

Read the full article here.

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