If fish had hands, they would now rub their eyes in amazement because Japanese scientists created a plastic material that can be safe food for marine organisms.
The earth is drowning in plastic. The figures are alarming. Mankind produces an estimated 430 million tonnes of plastic a year of which less than 10% is recycled. A huge percentage of the litter – approximately 23 million tonnes of plastic - ends up in lakes, rivers, seas and oceans every year. Microplastic particles are everywhere, even in our bodies.
How can we produce less plastic? How do we make plastics do less damage to the environment? These are the questions that scientists all over the world try to answer. Luckily, a breakthrough has been made by researchers in Japan. It appears they have created a plastic that fish can feed on.
A breakthrough in plastic production
The authors of the revolutionary solution is a team of researchers from the University of Tokyo. They presented the world with a material that is a synthesis of vitrimer-based plastic from epoxy resin, known in English as vitrimer incorporated with polyrotaxane (VPR).
The group of researchers was led by Shota Ando. In a statement to onegreenplanet.org, the scientist listed the advantages of the new plastic:
"VPR is over five times as resistant to breaking as a typical epoxy resin vitrimer," said Project Assistant Professor Shota Ando from the Graduate School of Frontier Sciences. "It also repairs itself 15 times as fast, can recover its original memorised shape twice as fast, and can be chemically recycled 10 times as fast as the typical vitrimer. It even biodegrades safely in a marine environment, which is new for this material."
Plastic that fish can eat
The description of VPR's properties sounds like a solution straight out of a science fiction novel. The material can be processed repeatedly at temperatures above 150 degrees Celsius without any loss in strength. The plastic also has the advantage of being quickly chemically recyclable. VPR is distinguished by its strength and flexibility due to its rotaxane polymer molecules (rotaxanes).
Most remarkable is the reduction of VPR's negative impact on the aquatic environment. If a product made from the new type of plastic ends up in the sea, it will biodegrade by 25% after a month. The plastic breaks down into components that fish can feed on.
Experts let their imagination run wild, listing areas where VPR would find use. The material could be used by road and bridge builders and the automotive industry. Structures would not only be more durable, but also easier to repair.
Source: Portal Komunalny/Rzeczpospolita/One Green Planet