Plastic waste is such a problem that it causes flooding in some parts of the world. As plastic polymers do not easily decompose, plastic pollution can clog up entire rivers. If it reaches the sea it ends up in enormous floating garbage patches.
In a bid to tackle the global problem of plastic pollution, researchers developed a degradable plastic that breaks down after being exposed to sunlight and air for only a week — a massive improvement over the decades, or even centuries, it can take for some everyday plastic items to decompose.
In a paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), the researchers detailed their new environmentally degradable plastic that breaks down in sunlight into succinic acid, a naturally occurring non-toxic small molecule that doesn't leave microplastic fragments in the environment.
The scientists used nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and mass spectroscopy chemical characterization to reveal their findings on the plastic, a petroleum-based polymer.
In a press statement, study coauthor Liang Luo, an organic materials scientist at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, revealed that the new degradable plastic could be mixed with other plastics to make more durable items. Such items to be more durable during use, while having the added benefit of decomposing faster in landfills.
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