26th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference

Exploring Green Chemistry Innovations in Plastics to Help Protect our Oceans

Organizers: Carol Henry, ACS Committee on Environmental Improvement, Portland, Oregon, USA; Robert Giraud, ACS Committee on Environmental Improvement, Wilmington, Delaware, USA

As the World Economic Forum (2016) reports, over 30% of plastic packaging materials “leak” into the oceans and other natural systems. They attribute this leakage in part to inadequate plastics recycling. Low recycling rates in the U.S. stem from decades of physical recycling approaches that have often resulted in degraded properties. New chemistry-based approaches are needed to prevent leakage of plastics into nature. In some cases, chemical recycling promises to economically recover the material value of polymers at the end of first life. In others, advances in chemical technology can promote the use of end-of-life plastics as feedstocks or significantly improve physical recycling. Either way, sustainably closing the loop on plastics to prevent further leakage into the oceans requires application of green chemistry and engineering.

This symposium will bring together environmental, business, chemistry, and engineering perspectives to connect problems with solutions and commercial implementation thereof. While others focus on design and commercialization of biobased and degradable polymers, this symposium will concentrate on the application of chemistry to recover or enable recovery of the material value of plastics at end of first life.

A panel discussion at the end of the session will discuss questions such as: (1) How can polymers be redesigned to meet the property needs currently served by complex materials in laminate packaging? (2) What chemical technology can be applied to enhance separation of mixed plastics? (3) How can end of first life plastics be sustainably transformed into valuable chemical products? (4) What is needed to sustainably depolymerize end of first life plastics to enable reuse as monomers? (5) How can conventional polymers be redesigned to facilitate recovery and reuse?

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