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November 5, 2019

Scourge Purge

Those single-use plastics might have more value than you think. A new method upcycles single-use plastic into high-quality products.

Credit: National Science Foundation/Karson Productions

Breakdown breakthrough.

I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files, from the National Science Foundation.

Plastic. Almost nowhere on Earth you won't find our most insidious manufactured material. (Sound effect: arctic wind) Bits of plastic detected in pristine remote locales, (Sound effect: undersea sounds) to the deepest depths. (Sound effect: forest sounds) Endangering wildlife and spreading toxins. The very durability and strength that makes single-use plastics so useful, also makes them nearly impossible to get rid of.

What if I told you of a new technology that promises to morph trash plastic into a valuable resource? While removing plastic pollution from the environment. A multi-institutional team developed a new technology to upcycle single-use plastic, that changes it into a high-quality liquid for making everything from motor oil to ingredients for detergents and cosmetics.

Current recycling methods for plastic just melt it down into a more inferior grade of -- plastic. Generating waste and toxic byproducts in the process.

The new technology uses platinum nanoparticles as a catalyst that under moderate pressure and temperature breaks the strong carbon-carbon bond that's part of what makes plastic -- plastic. Far less waste, and the plasti-trash has been transformed into a valuable ingredient for commercial products.

A solid response with a 'liquid' (Sound effect: liquid drip) outcome.

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