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Research: New organic catalyst technology could change recycling

Using organic catalysts, scientists at I.B.M.’s Almaden Research Center (San Jose, California / USA; www.almaden.ibm.com) have developed a new process by which plastics can be recycled continuously. The project, carried out in cooperation with researchers from Stanford University (www.stanford.edu), replaces metal oxide or metal hydroxide catalysts with organic ones, which allow the polymerization process to be reversed.

The result is a new type of biodegradable plastics, whose properties resemble those of existing materials, and which could potentially mean a significant reduction in waste and pollution. Replacing materials that are difficult to recycle, such as PET, organic catalysts could make a huge impact in the recycling of plastic bottles for instance.

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