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New Upcycling Process Promises Dramatic Shift in Polyester Recovery

A Northwestern research team led by Professor Monica Olvera de la Cruz has developed a polymer coating for polyester-digesting enzymes that allow them to remain stable at high temperatures, which allows them to be integrated into traditional plastics recycling processes for the first time.  Polyester, commonly found in plastic bottles and items of clothing, can then be broken down into its constituent components and repurposed without the structural compromises that occur through traditional recycling via melting and recasting.  The process also reduces the spread of microplastics and does not require additional solvents, providing a sustainable path toward repurposing polyester items without associated environmental costs.  The team, which includes first author Curt Waltmann and CESR members John Torkelson and Danielle Tullman-Ercek, published their results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on March 21st.  Learn more here.
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