Building a better polyethylene package

Packaging such as juice pouches are made with bonded layers of metal such as aluminum, and different types of plastic, making them almost impossible to recycle. Because only 1-3 percent of such packaging is collected for recycling, food and beverage containers are among the top 5 items found on beaches and coastlines. To solve this problem, the University of Pittsburgh researchers propose manipulating polyethylene molecules to design layers that can each perform a specific function, creating a fully recyclable PE product.

Each year more than eight million tons of plastics pollute the ocean, forming mammoth, so-called “garbage patches” via strong currents. Even with new collection methods, only 0.5 percent out of that volume is currently removed from the seas. One solution to this growing crisis is to prevent plastic from becoming waste, to begin with – and researchers from the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering are one of five international teams awarded for their novel solutions to this problem.

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