Comment by Robert Kriss, C2ST, Editor
People all over the world are becoming more aware and concerned about the health risks posed by plastics pollution. Reducing the amount of plastic we use, when the products are not essential, makes sense. For example, we don’t need plastic straws for all our drinks. Paper straws are coming back in improved form. But plastic is necessary in many other products. The problem is that plastic is not naturally biodegradable and current methods of breaking it down are expensive, require a lot of energy and generate additional pollution.
Enter Northwestern and Argonne scientists. They recently have developed a chemical that when mixed with plastic debris converts the plastic into hydrocarbon liquids. The liquids can be used to make high-quality lubricants, waxes, detergents, cosmetics and other useful products. The chemical reactions require less energy from external sources and produce far less pollution and waste than current plastic recycling methods.
So it’s still a good idea to avoid plastic straws whenever possible, but science is making great progress in reducing the risks associated with the debris we’ve already created and the plastic products we will continue to need in the future. For more information about how we will “turn plastic trash into treasure”, click here.
Catalytic method upcycles single-use plastic into high-quality liquid products
By Amanda Morris
Originally Posted at Northwestern