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Scientists Discover Effective Method Of Upcycling PET To Combat Plastic Pollution

Researchers in China have published a review that identifies innovative biotic and abiotic recycling and upcycling methods for PET plastic.

The invention of plastics, particularly polyethylene terephthalate (PET), in the 20th century marked a significant technological milestone.

Being lightweight, flexible and highly durable, this material could be used for a whole host of applications, from single-use plastic bottles and packaging to clothing and carpets.

So popular was plastic that since the 1950s its production has ramped up. Scientists  estimate that around 450 million tonnes of plastics are produced every year.

However, this large-scale production has led to large-scale plastic pollution  as its durability means it is resistant to natural degradation.

While over 175 countries have signed up to a UN proposal to create a binding agreement this year to combat plastic pollution , there need to be significant strides in effective recycling strategies.

To address this issue, researchers at the Nanjing Institute of Environmental Sciences (NIES) in China have identified innovative biotic and abiotic recycling and upcycling strategies for PET.

Traditional PET recycling methods often result in inferior-quality materials that do not have the same material integrity as PET plastic.

However, the researchers reviewed innovative sustainable techniques that harness cutting-edge enzymes and catalysts to break down the material.

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According to the researchers, these methods will not only enhance recycling efficiency, but also enable the upcycling of PET into diverse, economically valuable products.

For example, upcycled PET could be used to produce textiles, packaging materials and even chemicals for various applications. This will help reduce the reliance on virgin resources.

The review also underscores how this technique not only reduces the amount of plastic waste in the environment, but will also lead to significant reductions in energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions.

Professor Zhiling Li, co-author of the review, said: “Our work not only improves PET recycling efficiency, but also transforms waste into valuable products, thus contributing to a circular economy. The combined biotic and abiotic approaches open new pathways for environmental sustainability.”

The research team have published their findings in a paper  that introduces these biotic and abiotic methods for recycling and upcycling PET.

Source: E&T


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