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Bonds That Won’t Last: A New Kind Of Plastic That Could Change The Harmful Life-cycle Of Conventional Plastics

Left to right: Peter Christensen, Kathryn Loeffler, and Brett Helms.
Left to right: Peter Christensen, Kathryn Loeffler, and Brett Helms.
Marilyn Chung/Berkeley Lab

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Plastics have long been synonymous with toxic trash.

They linger in our oceans, and pollute the planet at every step of their life, from extraction to disposal.

According to the EPA, only 10 percent of plastic is recyclable.

To combat the harmful life-cycle of conventional plastics, researchers have invented a new kind of plastic with chemical bonds that make the material easier to break down and separate from additives like dyes and flame retardants that make most plastics especially harmful.

The big questions now are whether manufacturers will utilize the new plastic and whether recycling centers will shift their processes to accept it.

Larry talks with Brett Helms, director of the study, about the process of creating this plastic and the solutions it could offer.


Brett Helms, staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science lab managed by University of California; he is also director of the study; he tweets @GroupHelms