Traditional plastics pose a problem for the planet, whether it’s due to the fossil fuels used to produce them or the harmful chemicals released during their slow degradation process. Yet, despite these issues, plastic has become so intertwined with our daily lives that giving it up presents a complex challenge. Here, Dr Ashlee Jahnke, head of research and development at Teysha Technologies, suggests a sustainable solution to the plastic pollution problem.

Plastics have become such an integral part of life in the Western world that it’s often easy to forget that the material was only invented in the 19th century. This is just as well, as many of the durable plastics in single-use products, such as bottled water and six-pack rings, can take up to 450 years to degrade. Today, we could probably find remnants of the first plastics ever manufactured still lying in landfill or floating in our oceans.

The longevity of plastics wouldn’t be as pertinent a problem if it wasn’t for the scale of their use. Polymers are remarkably versatile materials, boasting wide ranging characteristics from durability and stiffness to tensile strength and flexibility, depending on the specific polymer used. This versatility means plastics feature everywhere from structural reinforcement to disposable packaging.

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