A team of scientists from the University of Birmingham has developed a fast and efficient way to convert bioplastics into bio-solvents, which can be used in a wide variety of industries, including cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Eurek Alert! Writes about their research.
Bioplastics made from polylactic acid (PLA) are becoming more common in products such as disposable cups, packaging materials, and even children’s toys. As a rule, as soon as they reach the end of their useful life, they are thrown into a landfill or composted, and the biodegradation process takes several months.
In a new study, scientists proved that a chemical process using a zinc-based catalyst can be used to break down real consumer plastics and produce a green solvent called methyl lactate.
Scientists tested this method on three separate products – a disposable cup, some 3D printer waste, and a children’s toy. They found that a cup is easiest to convert to methyl lactate at lower temperatures, but even more massive plastic in a children’s toy can be converted to a bio-solvent, simply at higher temperatures.
The chemical process was tested on 300 ml of this solution. The next stages of the experiments will include an increase in the volume of the creation of a bio-solvent so that it can be used in an industrial environment.