Every 15.5 hours, Americans discard enough plastic to fill the largest NFL stadium in the United States, AT&T Stadium (home of the Dallas Cowboys), and the amount grows each year.
Despite having only 4 percent of the world’s population, the United States produces more than 12 percent of the world’s garbage.
In 2018, more than 91 percent of plastic was landfilled or burned.
A lot of effort is being put into reducing the use of plastic in a variety of ways for the benefit of us and the environment.
For the first time, researchers have discovered a technique to endow relatively sustainable paper materials with some of the valuable qualities of plastic. This can be done quickly, cheaply, and effectively. Choetsu is a waterproofing layer that both keeps paper flexible and degrades safely.
It’s difficult to deny that plastic materials are generally harmful to the environment. Plastic pollution has most likely washed up on beaches, polluted waterways, and killed numerous creatures. Given the prevalence of plastic materials in everyday life, the problem frequently appears to be utterly out of our control. Professor Zenji Hiroi of the University of Tokyo’s Institute for Solid State Physics and his team are looking at how materials science may help, and their most recent finding intends to replace some plastic usage with something more sustainable: paper.
“The main problem with plastic materials as I see it is their inability to degrade quickly and safely,” says Hiroi. “There are materials that can degrade safely, such as paper, but obviously paper cannot fulfill the vast range of uses plastic can. However, we’ve found a way to give paper some of the nice properties of plastic, but with none of the detriments. We call it Choetsu, a low-cost biodegradable coating that adds waterproofing and strength to simple paper.”
Choetsu is a mixture of ingredients that, when applied on paper, produce a strong and waterproof layer when it comes into touch with moisture in the air. The coating is made up largely of methyltrimethoxysilane, with a minor quantity of isopropyl alcohol and tetraisopropyl titanate thrown in for good measure. This liquid mixture is sprayed or dipped into paper constructions, such as food containers, and then dried at room temperature. When the paper is dry, a thin layer of silica containing methyl, a type of alcohol, forms on the cellulose, giving it its tough and waterproof features.
Furthermore, during the coating process, reactions produce a layer of titanium dioxide nanoparticles that is automatically created. Photocatalytic activity is a dirt- and bacteria-repellent feature that protects the coated item for a long time. Over time, all of the compounds in the coating degrade into harmless substances like carbon, water, and sandlike silicon.
“The technical challenge is complete, and some applications could be realized soon, such as items for consuming, packaging or storing food,” adds Hiroi. “We now hope to use this approach on other kinds of materials as well. The liquid composition can be tuned for other materials, and we can create a dirt- and mold-resistant coating that could form onto glass, ceramics and even other plastics to extend their usefulness. Alongside researcher Yoko Iwamiya, who has been working in this field for some time now, and the rest of my team, I hope we can do something truly beneficial for the world.”
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