Sponsored By

Chemists at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) have developed a new way to recycle common plastics using electricity and chemical reactions.

July 6, 2023

1 Min Read
plastic bottles MR1540.jpg
P Tomlins / Alamy Stock Photo

Chemists at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) have developed a new way to recycle common plastics using electricity and chemical reactions.

Researchers described the new approach to recycling plastics through chemical recycling in the July 3rd Chem Catalysis journal. The method is so simple that apparently you can watch the plastic break apart right in front of your eyes.

“We pat ourselves on the back when we toss something into the recycling bin, but most of that recyclable plastic never winds up being recycled,” said Luca, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry. “We wanted to find out how we could recover molecular materials, the building blocks of plastics, so that we can use them again.”

A lab on the CU Boulder campus applies electricity to a solution containing ground up PET plastic. As the plastic dissolves, the solution turns pink. Then, the solution is exposed to oxygen which turns the solution yellow and eventually back to clear as the plastic fully breaks down.

The group focused their study on PET plastics, the type of plastics found in water bottles, blister packs, and polyester fabrics. Small-scale lab experiments were used to mix bits of PET plastic with a special kind of molecule then applied a small electric voltage. Within minutes, the PET plastics began to disintegrate.

Read the full article here.

Stay in the Know - Subscribe to Our Newsletters
Join a network of more than 90,000 waste and recycling industry professionals. Get the latest news and insights straight to your inbox. Free.

You May Also Like