Miranda Wang is one of the co-founders of BioCellection: a company that uses a chemical process to break down plastics and turn them into an essential ingredient for nylon, which otherwise uses petroleum.
Wang’s method specifically targets polyethylene, a cheap kind of plastic that is only recycled less than 3% of the time. Despite being the most used plastic in the US, much of this plastic is rejected from recycling plants because it’s covered in dirt, food, or grime.
“Film is the worst type of plastic because it’s so easy to catch surface contamination,” Wang told WIRED. “You can have such a small amount by mass, by weight of plastic, and its entangled and wrapped around everything in the waste bin and it just catches all the liquids and the oil.”
The resulting liquid chemicals can then be used to make materials like nylon, which is commonly used in the fashion and automotive industry. This way, single-use plastics can be effectively recycled while simultaneously replacing the need for petroleum.