Got Too Many Plastic Bags? Recycle Them Into Nanotubes

By Brett Israel | December 14, 2009 12:15 pm

plastic-bag-waste-webAn Argonne National Laboratory scientist thinks he has developed a better way to recycle a ubiquitous scourge of the environment—the plastic bag.

the plastic bag

New Scientist reports:

Waste plastic from “throwaway” carrier bags can be readily converted into carbon nanotubes. The chemist who developed the technique has even used the nanotubes to make lithium-ion batteries.

This is called “upcycling” – converting a waste product into something more valuable. Finding ways to upcycle waste could encourage more recycling…

The process isn’t cheap, however. It involves an expensive catalyst in cobalt acetate, which is not easily recovered, to convert the high or low-density polyethylene (HDPE and LDPE) into carbon nanotubes. But if the nanotubes are then used to make lithium-ion or lithium-air batteries, that might overcome this problem, since these batteries are already recycled at the end of their use to recover cobalt.

Getting the bags to a recycling facility in the first place may be a hurdle as well. As the picture above shows, asking the public to put forth any effort sometimes seems to be asking too much.

Related Content:
80beats: How to Make a Battery Out of Office Paper & Nanotubes
DISCOVER: The World’s Largest Garbage Dump: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Discoblog: Prison for Plastic? Indian City Initiates Harsh Penalties for Using Plastic Bags
Discoblog: It’s In the Bag! Teenager Wins Science Fair, Solves Massive Environmental Problem
DISCOVER: 9 Ways Carbon Nanotubes Just Might Rock the World

Image: flickr / Sam Felder

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Discoblog

Quirky, funny, and surprising science news from the edge of the known universe.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »