Colorado Chemists Discover Polymer That Could Replace Modern Plastic

Plastic is one heck of a convenient material to have around but you probably know by now that it can also take a heck of a toll on the environment.

Approximately 8 billion tons of plastic has been produced since it came onto the scene. Of that, over 7,000 tons of plastic waste has been generated. What’s disheartening is that only about 9% of that waste has been recycled.

Colorado State University is working toward solving that problem. Scientists at the university have discovered a lightweight and durable polymer that could replace modern plastic altogether. What’s great about this new polymer is that it can be reduced back down to its original polymer state. In short, it’s completely recyclable, chemically speaking. It can then be turned back into the plastic-like product, and it can be done quickly at a low cost.

Many traditional plastics can’t be recycled at all. Those that can often require a long time to accomplish the task and it comes with a fairly substantial price tag.

The solution from Colorado State University was technically discovered in 2015 but researchers needed to tweak the polymer to the point where it was similar enough to traditional plastic that it’s a commercially sound and environmentally beneficial alternative.

The end result is a polymer that has all of the benefits of plastic but is far easier to create and recycle. It can be created in a relatively easily controlled climate. It has a high heat resistance and for all intents and purposes behaves just like regular plastic.

Recycling the polymer is just about as easy as creating it in the first place. With appropriate application of chemicals, the polymer can be broken down into its monomer form is just a few minutes, at which point it can be reused.

According to chemists at Colorado State University, the new polymer can essentially be reused infinitely. However, they’ve also stated that the new polymer isn’t ready for commercial production yet. There’s still a good amount of research and testing to be done before it achieves its maximum potential for cost-effectiveness and practicality.