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Industrial Scalable Additives for Enhanced Decomposition of Plastic Waste Through Photocatalysis...

by Thomas W Colburn, Todd J Toops, Andrew A Wereszczak
Publication Type
Journal Name
Academic Journal of Polymer Science
Publication Date
Page Numbers
128 to 137

Polymer pollution is a dangerous environmental problem that can lead to the spread of toxic chemicals and microplastics throughout aquatic biomes. Commonly littered plastic from consumer goods and products with a limited or single use can be embedded with photocatalysts to avoid an increase in the amount of plastic present in Earth’s bodies of water. The photocatalyst nanoparticles, less than 100 nm particle size, were integrated into polyethylene terephthalate, high-density polyethylene, low-density polyethylene, and polystyrene and exposed under ultraviolet light over two independent experimental trials examining both the environmental factors impacting decay and the physical parameters required to implement this solution on a large scale. The plastics were chosen due to their prolific use in items such as grocery bags, bottles, and packaging. The first half of the project examined the effects of water and light frequency on polymer decay, and the second half of the project examined photodecomposition of polymer films. We report that low-density and high-density polyethylene films with titanium dioxide decayed approximately 11.7 and 9.6 faster than control samples, respectively. With an estimated price of less than half the cost of a shopping bag for titanium catalyst integration and a retention of the polymer’s tensile strength with a 2 wt% catalyst concentration, photocatalytic decomposition is a feasible, scalable method for the prevention and future reduction of polymer waste from realistic products littered in the environment.