New Uses for Recycled Carbon: Converting Waste Polyethylene into Alkylaromatics
Susannah Scott describes new possibilities to use recycled carbon.
Polyethylene is the world’s most widely used and produced polymer, highly valued for its lightness and strength. It is a key component of countless everyday items, such as plastic bags, bottles, caps, lids, pipes, containers, as well as many that are lesser-known, such as wire and cable insulation, woven fabrics and yarns, and wear-resistant artificial hip and knee joints. Although polyethylene itself is not directly harmful, being rather inert and essentially non-toxic, it makes up a significant portion of human-generated litter and environmental pollution; furthermore, the original source for its production is largely ethylene obtained from energy-intensive fossil fuel processing, which also represents a major environmental issue.
Professor Susannah Scott from the University of California, Santa Barbara (USA) explained that the widespread adoption of plastic, driven by its low cost of production and robustness, has led to increasingly visible pollution of the natural environment. Her group is interested to find new and economically interesting ways for polyolefin recycling.
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