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Trending: Enter Plastic Waste; Exit Stronger, Safer Materials

July 6, 2016

Trending: Enter Plastic Waste; Exit Stronger, Safer Materials

This week, we examine two innovations that not only divert plastic waste but turn it into stronger, more beneficial materials: IBM has discovered a way to convert polycarbonates into plastics safe for water purification, fiber optics and medical equipment; while shredded plastic waste is helping to create more durable, weather-resistant roads in Chennai, India.

“Polycarbonates are common plastics in our society – especially in consumer electronics in the form of LED screens, smartphones and Blu-rays, as well as everyday eyeglass lenses, kitchen utensils and household storage gear,” explained Gavin O. Jones, a research staff member at IBM Research – Almaden in San Jose, California. “We now have a new way of recycling to improve how this prominent substance impacts the world’s health and environment.”

Citing the American Chemical Society, IBM says that the world generates more than 2.7 million tons of polycarbonates every year. Over time, polycarbonates decompose and leach BPA, a chemical that, in 2008, caused retailers to pull plastic baby bottles from store shelves due to concerns about the potential effects of BPA on the brain. Since then, BPA has continued to be a cause for concern in materials such as cash register receipts and food can linings.

IBM research scientists added a fluoride reactant, a base and heat to old CDs to produce a new plastic with temperature and chemical resistance superior to the original material. The company claims that when the powder is reconstructed into new forms, its strength prevents the decomposition process that causes BPA leaching. Thus, the new, one-step chemical process can convert polycarbonates into plastics safe for water purification, fiber optics and medical equipment.

Read more at Sustainable Brands.

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