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New Recycling Method Fights Plastic Waste

Turning mixed plastic into useful chemicals

by Oak Ridge National Laboratory
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Almost 80 percent of plastic in the waste stream ends up in landfills or accumulates in the environment. Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists have developed a technology that converts a conventionally unrecyclable mixture of plastic waste into useful chemicals, presenting a new strategy in the toolkit to combat global plastic waste.

The technology, invented by ORNL’s Tomonori Saito and former postdoctoral researcher Md Arifuzzaman, uses an exceptionally efficient organocatalyst that allows selective deconstruction of various plastics, including a mixture of diverse consumer plastics. Arifuzzaman, now with Re-Du, is a current Innovation Crossroads fellow.

Production of chemicals from plastic waste requires less energy and releases fewer greenhouse gases than conventional petroleum-based production. Such a pathway provides a critical step toward a net-zero society, the scientists said.

“This concept offers highly efficient and low-carbon chemical recycling of plastics and presents a promising strategy toward establishing closed-loop circularity of plastics,” said Saito, corresponding author of the study published in Materials Horizons.

- This press release was originally published on the Oak Ridge National Laboratory website