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Recycle plastic waste into functional and self-cleaning fabrics

Globally, plastic waste is both a major threat to the environment, but also threatens to become a major public health problem. The accumulation of plastic waste from discarded items such as grocery bags, cups, bottles and packaging materials is reaching critical levels, impacting the natural environment and threatening many species animal. Microplastics resulting from plastic erosion and degradation pose an immediate threat to human health when they enter our food and water systems.

A multifunctional superhydrophobic textile is developed by recycling common plastic waste


Fortunately, a team of scientists led by Professor Hua Zhang from the City University of Hong Kong working on new methods of plastic waste recycling have successfully discovered a method to convert plastic waste into highly functional materials using a coating method. by immersion at low cost.

This research was published in the journal Nano-research

By adding silicon dioxide nanospheres to dissolved plastic waste, the researchers were able to soak cotton textiles in the mixture. The product was a highly functional textile that was durable, could separate oil/water mixtures and exhibited self-cleaning properties.

Traditionally, plastic waste was either diverted to landfills or incinerated. These disposal methods do not solve the plastic pollution solution, however. More recently, research has investigated the use of biodegradable polymers and methods to accelerate decomposition through bio and catalytic methods. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, low yield and high cost, these methods have received limited support.

The team’s approach to converting plastics into more useful products is innovative in its approach to waste management and hopes to limit the amount of plastic diverted to landfills or incinerators.

Focused on the development of superhydrophobic materials, the research team set out to demonstrate that plastic waste could be a promising candidate as a raw material for the low-cost preparation of superhydrophobic materials. These materials have a variety of uses ranging from water sanitation, to anti-corrosion, to self-cleaning surfaces.

Using one of the most abundant waste materials – polystyrene – which is common in packaging materials, food containers and coffee cups, they dissolved the material and mixed it with nanospheres of silicon dioxide . By soaking the cotton fabric in the mixture and letting it dry, the team processed a coated fabric material with high durability and functionality. “Impressively, it also shows excellent resistance to harsh environments, such as corrosive solutions, high temperature processing and mechanical abrasion,” said lead researcher Zhang.

The future applications of the material are numerous. Such coated textiles could be used where oil/water mixtures require separation. “In addition, the textile exhibits the self-cleaning property and the ability to be dyed and retain its color, which makes it a promising material for developing self-cleaning wearable textile materials,” Zhang said.