- A team from IBM Research's Almaden lab in San Jose, CA has found a way to convert polycarbonates — for example CDs, baby bottles, and smartphones — into new plastic.
- Researchers discovered the process by adding a fluoride reactant and heat to old CDs. While polycarbonates normally decompose and release the chemical BPA over time, this process stabilizes the material and in fact makes it stronger.
- The material is durable and resistant to heat, making it suitable for water purification systems, fiber optics, and medical equipment.
The effects of BPA are often debated, though this discovery goes a step beyond that by creating a new, stronger material that won't decompose over time. This could be useful in diverting a category of plastic from landfills which can be hard to recycle cost-effectively.
"What I’m hoping it will do is inspire new and creative ways to reduce our plastic waste," Dr. Jeanette Garcia, one of the lead researchers on the project, told Waste Dive.
Garcia said she also sees the potential for developing other types of material using this process in the future. The next step is partnering with plastic manufacturers to test the process on a larger scale and find ways to introduce this recycled material to the market.
This is the latest in a series of promising scientific advances that have found new ways to recycle different types of plastic. A recent study identified a method for converting polyethylene to fuel that doesn't require the high heat of technologies such as pyrolysis, and a new plastic-to-fuel facility recently opened in Ohio.