We all know that plastic bags and other plastics are filling our landfills and polluting our oceans. That’s why there’s a big push throughout the industry to find alternative materials that make it easier and more profitable to recycle plastics. Generally speaking, recycled plastics are used to make low-value, low-profit items such building materials. That means that there is little incentive for companies to invest in recycling plastics.
Researchers have been looking for ways to recycle plastics that will make it possible to use recycled plastic in making more valuable products. In this effort, they have developed a new chemical process that can convert polyethylene into an adhesive. The new adhesive is extremely strong making it valuable. Although only a fraction of the world’s left over plastic has the needed properties to be converted to adhesive, even a small amount can make the entire process of recycling worthwhile for companies. Once they are able to turn a profit, they can also include lesser value products into the mix. With billions of pounds of plastics manufactured every year, even a small amount is substantial and worthwhile.
During traditional recycling, most plastics are cut up into pieces in order to make new products. During this process, the plastic loses many of its properties, such as elasticity. New recycling methods have been used to break down plastics to their chemical components. They can then be used as lubricants and fuels, which are not high-profit products either. And, these products are not the answer to the environmental issues as they too are not environmentally-friendly.
The newly-developed chemical process allows the plastic to retain many of its original properties while adding a new chemical group that makes it adhere to metal. That is new to polyethylene. And could have many high-value uses. Additionally, the new polyethylene adheres to water-based latex paint.
Normally paint easily peels off plastic but with this new material, tests have shown that it is difficult to peel the paint off.
While the material is not ready for large-scale use, it is a starting point for finding new methods that result in new uses for recycled plastics. New products that are high-value and high-profitability.
The Polymers Technology Center works with plastic companies to develop processes for manufacturing of polymers. Companies come to us for their custom plastic compounding needs. We specialize in process development on both lab and pilot scale. Contact us today to learn more.