Untying the Knots to Develop a Circular Economy from Waste Plastics

Organizers: Andrew D. Sutton, Los Alamos National Laboratory; Chris Chuck, The University of Bath, UK; Asanga B Padmaperuma, Sr. Research Scientist, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory 

Plastics have only been in large-scale production since the 1950s but in that short time approximately 8300 million metric tons (Mt) of virgin plastics have been produced of which, 6300 Mt of plastic waste has been generated with 79 % of that now in landfills or in the environment such as “Great Pacific garbage patch.” While this is a major environmental problem, it can also be considered to be a huge resource opportunity if we can develop approaches and methods to reintroduce this carbon back into the supply chain and avoid the accumulation of single use carbon.

The rationale behind this symposium is to consider all aspects of the plastic cycle and how we can use this discarded carbon resource to reduce petroleum and energy resources, reduce environmental impacts and increase global sustainability. This will encompass:

• Development of new polymers with improved performance to provide market pull
• Chemical and biologic recycle of polymers
• Development of biodegradable polymers to environmentally benign materials
• Challenges in replacing petroleum-based polymeric materials
• Economic and environmental factors and barriers to a circular-plastic economy
• Methods to upcycle plastics