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Recycling Old smartphones to non-toxic plastic

IBM discovers method to convert e-waste to non-toxic plastic for medical use

Policy Pulse
Publish Date: Jun 29 2016 1:21PM | Updated Date: Jun 29 2016 1:34PM

Recycling Old smartphones to non-toxic plastic

An astounding discovery might help the tech industry in dealing with its e-waste problem. Tech giant IBM found a new recycling process that can turn the polycarbonates used to make smartphones and CDs into a high-strength nontoxic plastic that's safe enough for medical use.


Researchers at IBM produced new plastic that’s even stronger than polycarbonates by adding fluoride reactant in terms of temperature and chemical resistance. This plastic will be safe to use in water purification and medical equipment. Fiber optics is another potential application.


Evidence shows that the world generates more than 2.7 million tons of plastic, known as polycarbonates, which can also be found in common household products. Gradually, polycarbonates decompose and leach BPA, a chemical which potentially damaging effects on the brain.


Conversely, the new plastic is strong enough to resist the decomposition process that causes BPA leaching.


A new, one-step chemical process has been discovered to convert polycarbonates into plastics in Almaden lab in San Jose, California. 


A paper describing the work was published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


“It’s an environmental win on many fronts.” said Jeanette Garcia, PhD, research staff member, IBM Research.