Recycling Polystyrene Into Valuable Chemicals
Researchers have recently developed a method where they can recycle polystyrene into valuable products. This uses energy-efficient processes and is adaptable to other plastics. Guoliang Liu and colleagues at Virginia Tech used ultraviolet light and aluminium chloride to break down the polystyrene. They then used the same catalyst and added dichloromethane to create diphenylmethane. This can be used for scents and medicines, making it highly valuable. The reaction also uses less energy than traditional recycling methods for polystyrene whilst producing a high market value.
‘Currently, the main method for recycling polystyrene yields a product that is often too low-quality to make the process economically viable. In other words, if a recycling plant tries to recycle polystyrene on a large scale, it will either need a financial boost, such as a government subsidy, or the operation risks running out of money and shutting down.’
The Benefits Of This Finding
Their results showed profitability as diphenylmethane comes with high value. This justifies the costs of the recycling process and means it will encourage others to do so. Polystyrene is 100% recyclable, yet polystyrene recycling doesn’t happen so often. In fact, less than 10% of the world’s polystyrene is currently recycled!
Even businesses producing bulk loads of this waste find themselves chucking the materials into general bins. This means that polystyrene ends up in landfill sites, littering the environment and causing harm to the sustainability of our planet. Having a new recycling method developed that can create valuable chemicals is key to pushing for higher recycling rates for this product.