Our plastic waste can be used as raw material for detergents, thanks to an improved catalytic method

Laundry detergent bottle
With this method, your empty detergent bottle can be turned into more detergent.

We’ve managed to accumulate so much plastic trash that it’s daunting to think about what could be done with the tons upon tons of nonbiodegradable waste. And as much as we are trying to scale back our dependence on single-use plastics, we continue to add to the global plastic trash hoard. Events like the COVID-19 pandemic only served to expand their use for personal protective equipment and disposable and take-away packaging.

But, for researchers at UC Santa Barbara, one person’s single-use packaging is another person’s useful raw material. In a paper published in the journal Chem, they have reimagined the value of single-use plastics, with improvements to an innovative process that can turn polyolefins, the most common type of polymer in single-use packaging, into valuable alkylaromatics — molecules that underlie surfactants, the active components of detergents and other useful chemicals. READ MORE