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UC research: Berkeley Lab’s infinitely recyclable plastic

Berkeley Lab scientists Brett Helms (left) and Corinne Scown hold samples of PDK plastic.

A multidisciplinary Berkeley Lab team has been working for several years to develop a game-changing plastic that, unlike traditional plastics, can be recycled indefinitely and is not made from petroleum.  This material — called poly(diketoenamine) or PDK — could quickly become as cheap as making the same item with new plastic polymers. (A very small proportion of our current plastics are recycled, so most products are made from “virgin” plastic resin.) PDK production would also reduce the CO2 emissions and energy requirements of manufacturing. And, the scientists plan to create the PDK resin using microbe-fermented plant material — meaning that the entire lifecycle of a PDK plastic product could be low-carbon or even carbon neutral.

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