German scientists develop HDPE-like polyester that is also biodegradable

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Scientists at Germany’s University of Konstantz have developed a biodegradable polyester that has HDPE-like properties.

In a paper in the journal Angewandte Chemie, the team presented a new polyester that is friendly for industry, easily recyclable but also biodegradable.

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HDPE has high crystallinity and water repellency, but is energy intensive to make and doesn’t have an efficient recycling process, according to the scientists.

But chemist Stefan Mecking and his research group developed a new plastic called polyester-2,18 that contains two basic modules that can be provided from sustainable sources.

The crystalline structure of the plastic resembles HDPE and shows recyclability under comparatively mild conditions. However, it also appears to break down quickly under industrial composting conditions.

Stefan Mecking: “We too were amazed by this rapid degradation. Of course, we cannot transfer the results of the composting plant one-to-one into any conceivable environmental condition.

“But they do confirm that this material is indeed biodegradable and indicate it is much less persistent than plastics like HDPE, if it should be unintentionally released into the environment.”

The scientists now want to study further the recyclability and biodegradability of the polyester under variable conditions.