New Type of Resilient Plastic Might Be Recycled Indefinitely

A new type of plastic keeps its basic qualities when recycled, and may help slow the climate crisis.
Brad Bergan

An international team of scientists from China, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. has created a new kind of plastic that doesn't lose its initial qualities when recycled, according to a new study published in the journal Science Advances.


New type of plastic keeps qualities when recycled

Plastics have the high-status perception of one of the most significant modern advancements in recent history. They're light-weight, strong, and even bendable — and are applied in a very wide spectrum of applications.

However, there are well-known cons to plastics. They don't recycle well and take an inconveniently long time to decay, according to This is why millions of tons of plastic waste ends up in landfills and swirling around in a colossal Pacific island of waste.

Scientists have consequently worked hard to find a new type of plastic lacking these flaws but maintaining the strengths that launched it to global manufacturing prominence.

And according to the research team behind this study, they've found it.

New plastic retains original monomer after recycling

The new plastic was developed from a bio-based olefin carboxylic acid, which was prepared into a bridged bicyclic thiolactone monomer. The resulting material (called PBTL) had all the qualities of traditional plastics.

When they tested the new plastic, it showed the PBTL was broken down into the original monomer, and a follow-up test broke down samples of PBTL (with a catalyst) at room temperature. Again they found that the sample was broken down to the original monomer.

After this, the researchers made new batches of PBTL using the monomers from both processes, proving the fully-recyclable capabilities of this plastic to be created, broken down, and created once more — again and again. The researchers think this process may be repeated indefinitely.

New plastic could slow progress of climate crisis

Additionally, the researchers said their new plastic might replace traditional plastic's role in a number of products — which could substantially reduce the amount of plastics polluting the global environment. However, all products using the new type of plastic must be separated from other materials before they may be successfully recycled.

As the global climate crisis continues to intensify the urgency for nearly every industrial sector to adapt, the availability of a new, eco-friendly plastic could do much to slow the progress of damage done to our environment.

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