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New Plastic Could Reduce Ocean Pollution

Researchers at Cornell developed a novel polymer for the commercial fishing industry to reduce marine pollution.

New Plastic Could Reduce Ocean Pollution

From:  Design News
June 18, 2020

Feature Image by Rilsonav from Pixabay 

Discarded plastic waste that ends up in the ocean—where it is harmful to marine life and the health of the oceanic eco-system, in general—is a massive environmental problem that scientists have been trying to solve in various ways.

Researchers at Cornell University test a new plastic material that can biodegrade when exposed to ultra-violet light. (Image source: Lab of Geoffrey Coates, Cornell University)


About half of this type of plastic pollution comes from commercial fishing gear in the form of the nets and ropes. To help address this problem, scientists at Cornell University have developed a new durable polymer for marine use that can degrade through exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

While some of the ways scientists have tried to solve the problem involves alternative materials, plastic itself, with its myriad uses, is not going anywhere soon, said Bryce Lipinski, the project’s lead researcher and a doctoral candidate in Cornell’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology.

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“The reality is that plastic is here to stay,” Lipinski, a researcher in the laboratory of Tisch University Professor Geoffrey Coates, told Design News. “There are numerous applications in which plastics out compete other materials in terms of strength, flexibility, and weight. The combination of mass utilization and insufficient disposal practices has led to significant plastic contamination of the environment.”

Rather than try to solve the problem as a whole, the Cornell team decided to focus on one of its many fronts.

“We targeted the need for a high-strength degradable polymer for applications in which plastic often escapes to the environment,” Lipinski told us.  


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