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Turning Trash into Treasure

The ACS Fall 2022 meeting, with the theme “Sustainability in a Changing World,” was held in Chicago, Illinois, and featured a presidential symposium on August 21, 2022, titled “Enabling the Circular Economy through Polymer Molecular Recycling.” The event was supported by the 2022 ACS President, Professor Angela Wilson.

“Enabling the Circular Economy through Polymer Molecular Recycling” is a great opportunity to learn more about emerging technologies that will help make California’s goal a reality.”
By C&EN, 2022

Reducing, reusing, and recycling has become a goal of today’s world to create a more sustainable living environment. However, compared to reducing and reusing, recycling has limited abilities for things such as plastics and other polymers. Only a small percentage of plastics are recycled, and the most common way to recycle (collect, grind, re-melt) degrades the material’s quality with each cycle and has limitations in the type and purity of plastics it can accept.

ACS Fall 2022 Meeting in Chicago poster advertisement featuring chemistry illustrations on a blue background

The ACS Fall 2022 hosted a selected group of individuals, including Prof. Lucian Lucia, Professor, and Associate Faculty in the department of Chemistry at NC State, to execute a presidential symposium. Lucia and his colleagues spent three half-day sessions with world-class researchers and industry leaders to explore the established, new, and next advancements of polymer recycling technologies and discuss some real-world considerations of turning trash into treasure.

Today’s world is undergoing a plastics catastrophe given the amount of single-use and related consumer goods plastics going to landfills or watersheds. It is estimated that by 2050 we will kill all aquatic life because of plastics if we don’t find a way to control wanton discarding. This symposium provided concrete examples of how to best recycle, reclaim, and reuse petroleum-based polymers/plastics.