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.