Placed in an acid bath, it can be fully broken down into its component parts.
Like lego, these monomers can then be reassembled into different shapes, colours and textures, according to the scientists at California’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who created it.
Currently, less than a third of recyclable plastic is re-purposed to create new materials, leaving the majority of it to end up in landfill or the ocean.
“Most plastics were never made to be recycled,” said Peter Christensen, a postdoctoral researcher at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry and lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Chemistry. “But we have discovered a new way to assemble plastics that takes recycling into consideration from a molecular perspective.
The acid breaks the bonds between monomers and separates them from additives that give the plastic its distinctive look and feel.
These monomers can be recovered for reuse for as long as possible, or “upcycled” to make another product