A new plastic was created that can be recycled repeatedly — the latest advance in the lab as scientists try to address the world’s growing plastics problem.
The problem: Roughly 4.9 billion tons of plastic waste produced since the 1950s hasn’t been recycled or burned. And, plastic production is expected to double over the next two decades.
The challenge: Plastic needs to be durable to be useful. Today, plastic bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) are largely broken down through mechanical recycling — it’s separated, shredded, washed and melted. The process is labor intensive and the product is degraded plastics that are often made into lower-value secondary products that are not recycled again.