The acid helps to break the bonds between the monomers and separates them from the chemical additives that give plastics their look and feel, according to a report byScience Daily. In fact, less than one-third of recyclable plastic is repurposed after the recycling process, with the rest being tossed along with other non-recyclable waste or incinerated.
Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have designed a plastic that can be recycled over and over again, and turned into new materials of any color, shape, or form.
Many plastics used today were made with chemicals that make them more resilient, but these chemicals can also make it more hard to fully recycle the material or recycle them repeatedly.
Condensing these units into a long string forms a plastic called poly (diketoenamine) - or PDK - and the bonds can be dissolved easily using nothing more than a 12-hour soak in a strong acid bath.
But a team of researchers at Berkeley Lab might just have changed that - with a find described as the'Holy Grail', a plastic which can be recycled into dozens of different materials, again and again.
"We've already seen the impact of plastic waste leaking into our aquatic ecosystems, and this trend is likely to be exacerbated by the increasing amounts of plastics being manufactured and the downstream pressure it places on our municipal recycling infrastructure", said study researcher Brett Helms, from Berkeley Lab's Molecular Foundry.More news: Coffee cup in Game Of Thrones gets viewers buzzing
"Here, we show that next-generation plastics - polymerized using dynamic covalent diketoenamine bonds - allow the recovery of monomers from common additives, even in mixed waste streams". "If these facilities were created to recycle or upcycle PDK and related plastics, then we would be able to more effectively divert plastic from landfills and the oceans".
We're surrounded by plastics for much of our lives.
This means that instead of a container becoming another new container, it becomes a different, less useful product instead of completing the "recycling loop".
Most plastics are made of polymers, chains of hydrogen and carbon which are mostly gotten from petroleum products like crude oil. They could also upcycle the plastic by adding additional features, such as flexibility.
Recycling reusable materials is a key effort in reducing resource consumption and waste, but now available materials make that hard.
The full findings of the study were published in the journal Nature Chemistry.More news: MediEvil PS4 Remake Will Arrive October 25, 2019
In a ideal world, plastic would never be on a one-way trip into landfill - it's a vision we've strived to realise for decades.
Of 30 billion plastic bottles used by United Kingdom households each year, only 57 per cent are now recycled, with half going to landfill, half go to waste.
Some would argue that plastics have played an important role in powering the robust world economy that has thrived since the end of World War II.
Every year, the United Kingdom throws away 2.5 billion "paper" cups, amounting to 5,000 cups a minute.
This is largely due to plastic wrapping around bottles that are non-recyclable.
Shockingly, less than 0.4 per cent of these are recycled.More news: Pope requires sex abuse to be reported to church, not police
This lining keeps your coffee warm and stops the cardboard going soggy, but also makes the cup nearly impossible to recycle.