Cleavable additives for degradable, recyclable thermoset plastics

Year 2020
Project team Jeremiah Johnson with Peyton Shieh and Keith Husted
65 billion Tons of thermoset plastics produced each year
Vast majority Must be burnt or sent to landfills
Degradable co-monomer Could create recyclable versions of plastics

Reducing plastic waste

Thermosets play a key role in the modern plastics industry, comprising about 18% of polymeric materials with a worldwide production of 65 billion tons per year. Their high density of chemical crosslinks results in excellent mechanical properties for high-performance applications, but prevents them from being readily reprocessed once formed. As a result, the vast majority of these materials must be incinerated or sent to landfills. This team is developing recyclable versions of existing high-performance thermosets by incorporating small quantities of a degradable co-monomer. The team aims to provide a solution to significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste generated while creating new revenue streams from recovered plastics and reinforcing fibers, paving the way to a greener, more sustainable future.

Headline: Chemists make tough plastics recyclable

MIT chemists have now developed a way to modify thermoset plastics with a chemical linker that makes the materials much easier to break down, but still allows them to retain the mechanical strength that makes them so useful. Read more at MIT News.

Yasmeen Alfaraj and Keith Husted present “Recycling ‘unrecyclable’ plastics” at IdeaStream 2022