Synthesis of new sustainable polymers is imperative but does not directly address the issue of the quantity of manufactured plastic that is contributing to our linear plastic economy. Current recycling technologies have disadvantages such as cost, degradation of mechanical properties of the recyclate and detrimental environmental impact. The GML has expanded its research to new ways of tackling the main issues seen during recycling and processing of plastics.
Our processing projects focus on developing new methods to improve the recyclability of different polymeric materials whether that be through improving the recycling process itself or introducing detection and monitoring techniques to facilitate recycling. Mechanical methods include simulation of recycling using extrusion and rheological techniques as well as other industrial-scale polymer processing equipment. We investigate the different degradation mechanisms polymer chains succumb to because of thermal-mechanical degradation during reprocessing. We’ve found that by changing the extruding conditions we can alter the nature of these polymer chain modifications; whether they be scission, disproportionation or cross-linking. Changes in the polymer chain structure have significant effects on its mechanical and thermal properties as well as on the further processability of the recycled material. Our goal is to use these chain modifications to our advantage and pair them with detection techniques to change the way that we recycle.