MSU researchers find new ways to recycle plastic


EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – A professor at Michigan State University is finding new ways to recycle your plastic.

Muhammed Rabnawaz is the principal investigator of the sustainable materials group at MSU’s school of packaging. He’s taking old plastic, breaking it down and finding new ways to reuse it.

The goal? To reduce the billions of recyclable materials in landfills.

More than 70 billion pounds of plastic are used every year in the U.S., according to experts at MSU.
When it’s not recycled, it breaks down into toxic chemicals which can be eaten by animals like fish.

Professor Muhammad Rabnawaz is working to address what he calls the plastic problem.

“We convert it into something useful product, like making a new package making some engineering parts for the auto module for construction,” said Rabnawaz.

But the question is how?

Rabnawaz says it happens by first breaking down the molecules called polymers in the plastic.

“[We] repair those threads of the polymer again, to get virgin-material-like properties. This is what we do,” he said.

“We are expecting that our research will help to divert over 10 billion pounds of plastic per year from the landfill into the manufacturing.”

Which he says could also reduce the plastic problem right here in the Great Lakes area and cut down CO2 emissions.

“We need to live with plastic because it’s a great material, great benefits, but we need to find a way to minimize and eliminate the problems,” said Rabnawaz.

With the help of his research team of students, they’re collecting data and finding ways the broken-down materials can be reused.

But until they find answers, Rabnawaz is urging everyone to take small steps and start recycling what they can.

Rabnawaz and his team are already breaking down plastic and they hope to complete their research within the next 5 years.

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