New plastic could save a heap of e-waste

Dutch researchers have created a new "self-healing" thermoplastic that can be reused over and over, possibly saving millions of tons of e-waste a year.

Most consumer gadgets use a thermoset plastic material in their construction (some examples: The hard plastic you'd find in a PC's exterior casing or holding together a circuit board). The material is augmented with chemical additives to give it heat resistance and stiffness. Unfortunately, these additives also make it tough to recycle. Even worse, the plastic bulk gets in the way of recycling the valuable parts of e-waste, like precious metals.

The University of Groningen team's new plastic keeps the necessary heat resistance and stiffness, while allowing ground-up post-consumer pellets of their invention to be reformed into "virgin" materials at a higher heat. That would pave the way for their plastic to be collected and sorted from solid waste streams, like soda bottles are today.

Via Macromolecules and the American Chemical Society