ORNL: Sustainability – On the upcycle

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers determined that designing polymers specifically with upcycling in mind could reduce future plastic waste considerably and facilitate a circular economy where the material is used repeatedly.

Polymers, found in single-use plastic applications, contribute to landfill waste. One way to eliminate their disposal is through upcycling, which transforms plastics into high-value products. Conversion processes like pyrolysis and gasification make reuse possible. However, this can be costly because of the challenges associated with a plastic’s composition, processing history and reaction temperature.

In a study, researchers concluded that while continuing to develop plastic recycling technologies remains critical for reuse, designing virgin polymers simplifies the upcycling process in the long term.

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