“The ultimate goal is to reduce the amount of waste plastics in landfills and oceans.” Hear, hear!

The words of polymer researcher, Nic Rorrer, who works at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are in relation to the discovery of a new method for plastics upcycling. Developed at NREL, the process transforms these damaging products into ‘new, high-value materials of better quality and environmental value’. “We are excited to have developed a technology that incentivises the economics of plastics reclamation,” Rorrer said. Combining polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, ‘in the form of single-use beverage bottles’ with ‘bio-based compounds’, the team has produced higher value fiber-reinforced plastics (FRPs) commonly used to make products like wind turbines and vehicle parts.

“Most recycling today is downcycling–there’s very little financial motivation,” explained NREL Senior Research Fellow Gregg Beckham. “Knowing that 26 million tons of PET are produced each year but only 30% of PET bottles are recycled in the United States, our findings represent a significant advancement in enabling the circular materials economy.”

There will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050 if current trends aren’t reversed. Innovations likes these will be key to accelerating solutions that can turn the ship around, as will the decisions we all choose to make. There are lots of initiatives, including the Clean Seas campaign, you can get involved with to make a difference.