Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

Poly-Di-Ketoenamine (PDK): New plastic that could be fully recycled

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PDK, Polymerization

Mains level : Utility of PDK as advanced material

  • The scientists have created a next-generation plastic that can be fully recycled into new materials of any colour, shape, or form, without loss of performance or quality.

Poly-Di-Ketoenamine (PDK)

  • A team of researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Berkeley National Laboratory has designed a recyclable plastic called PDK.
  • The monomers of PDK plastic could be recovered and freed from any compounded additives by placing the material in a highly acidic solution.
  • It helps to break the bonds between the monomers and separate them from chemical additives.
  • The recovered PDK monomers can be remade into polymers, and those recycled polymers can form new plastic materials without inheriting the colour or other features of the original material.
  • They could also upcycle the plastic by adding additional features, such as flexibility.

Why most plastics cannot be recycled?

  • Most plastics are made of polymers, chains of hydrogen and carbon which are chiefly derived from petroleum products like crude oil.
  • Polymers are composed of shorter strands called monomers and the process is called polymerization.
  • To give plastics certain characteristics like toughness, flexibility or color, certain chemicals are added which from strong bonds with the monomers.
  • While many polymers are thermoplastic, meaning they can be melted down and reused, the additives bonded to them can interfere with the process.
  • So when plastics are ground up and mixed together for recycling, all those additives make the final product unpredictable and lower quality.
  • That’s why most recycled plastic is “downcycled” or turned into items like handbags or benches instead of completing the recycling loop.
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