A team of scientists from the University of Colorado (USA) has developed a plastic that can be recycled an unlimited number of times. Recycling usually significantly degrades the quality of the plastic. However, the new plastic, dubbed PBTL, can be shredded and remelted with little or no loss in performance. It is based on bicyclic thiolactones, which give the material excellent strength, hardness and resistance, so it can be used for packaging, sports equipment and even car parts.
About 300 million tons of new plastic are produced annually in the world, and only a small part of it is recycled (for example, in the USA, its share is only 10%). Part of the reason so little plastic is reused is because it is difficult to decompose.
The breakthrough was made possible by a new method of breaking down plastics into individual monomers. All that is required is 24 hours of heating in the presence of a catalyst. But it is important to understand that this is possible only as long as PBTL is not mixed with other polymers.
From a technological point of view, PBTL looks extremely promising, but its future depends on whether plastic manufacturers agree to include it in their industrial range. Research materials on the new material were published in the journal Science Advances.