Plastic That Can Degrade in Three Hours

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Plastic That Can Degrade in Three Hours

The problem with plastic is that it is a globally important product; its versatility means you’ll find it in everything from electronics to furniture, prosthetic limbs to vehicles. However, it is an environmental disaster; it degrades slowly, it accumulates in landfills for hundreds of years and gradually leaking dangerous chemicals into the ground.  As it builds up in our oceans it harms or kills marine animals. Furthermore, burning or melting it can release toxic emissions into the air.

Scientists at North Dakota State University have found a solution in the form of a plastic that breaks down upon exposure to light, and remarkably, it takes just three hours to fully degrade.

To create this new plastic scientists made a mixture of two groups of molecules. Some came from fructose, the sugar found in fruit, and the others were molecules capable of absorbing light called phototriggers.

They applied heat to this mixture, and the result was a long series of smaller molecular chains. Cooling the chains yielded a solid plastic.

Next the team then heated the new plastic with ultraviolet rays of the same wavelength as those emitted by the sun and found out that the plastic  started to degrade in three hours.

This type of plastic is great for plastic shopping bags and plastic electronic gadgets that are extremely difficult to recycle. As it melts with exposure to the sunlight scientist are currently working toward increasing the plastic’s durability so it can be tested for commercial use.

Another exciting finding according to the team’s recently published paper in  Angewandte Chemie ,these molecules can then be recovered and re-used to make new plastic, which helps reduce the demand for raw materials.


Tina is a DailyStar senior writer. She graduated from Edith Cowan University. Writing has always been something she enjoyed. Her positive outlook colours every aspect of her life. Her motto -Life’s too short so get living.

When she’s not busy writing, Tina is exploring the city she adores, running in her local Park every day, drinking an absurd amount of coffee, taking care of an adorable pup, kids and traveling.

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