UK University Study Tackles a Sticky Issue with Adhesive Recycling
Adhesive residue left on recyclable materials, such as glass and cardboard, can be a challenge to recycle. But a new approach that uses degradable polymers means it can be dissolved. It was developed at the University of Surrey, UK.
Sticky residue causes problems in the recycling industry, ranging from low-quality products, blocked water systems and damaged recycling machinery.
The newly developed non-commercial adhesive has a chemical additive known as thionolactone which makes up 0.25% of the composition. This additive allows the adhesive to be dissolved in the recycling process – previously an impossibility. Labels can also be detached up to 10 times faster when compared to a non-degradable adhesive, said the group.
Professor Joseph Keddie, leader of the Soft Matter Physics laboratory at the University of Surrey and fellow of the Surrey Institute for Sustainability, said: “Adhesives are made from a network of chain-like polymer molecules, irreversibly linked them together, which leads to the residue build-up we see left behind when recycling materials such as glass and cardboard.”
“The problem of network residues is frustrating on an industrial scale and [the] consequences of insoluble adhesives [for] the quality of recycled products are of even greater concern,” he said.
The goal is to make this solution easier and more cost-effective for recycling.
“Our additive creates what we call degradable thioester connections in the polymer network and provides an innovative solution to making recycling processes residue-free.”
Dr Peter Roth, Senior Lecturer of Polymer Chemistry at the University of Surrey, and fellow of the Surrey Insitute for Sustainability added:
“The next steps would be to look at the commercial viability of this additive, as well as look at the sustainability impact.”
So far, the adhesive has been tested on glass, steel, plastic and paper, including cardboard.
Rohani Abu Bakar is the lead PhD student working on this project funded by the Malaysian Rubber Board. She commented on the impact this will have when she returns to Malaysia:
“The interdisciplinary approach across chemistry and physics has been incredibly useful in building the knowledge and skills to solve a very real sustainability problem. There is no doubt that many countries across the world need to review how they recycle major materials, and this brings us one step closer to reaching our sustainability goals on an industrial scale.”
Source: University of Surrey, UK
Research article located HERE