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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

Audio Transcript:

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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