Solution for plastic problem - Soaps and detergents have become non-negotiable essentials in every household. However, while we can't get enough of this stuff, there's another household material that we can't seem to dispose of quickly: plastic.
While a connection between the two might seem far-fetched at first, some new exciting science has helped connect the dots in a way that could go a long way for the environment. A team of researchers from Virginia Tech have devised a way to upcycle many plastic types into precursors for soap and detergent making, killing two birds with a singular stone.
To understand how this is even possible, we need to look closer at the chemical structures of both materials. Polyethylene, the most common plastic type that finds application in consumer products such as food packaging, bottles, buckets and even bulletproof vests, is shockingly similar to the fatty acids used in the manufacture of soaps.
Therefore, it was thus theoretically possible to convert the unwanted plastic into soap. And turns out, it might be easier than previously thought. However, the team would have to go down the nightmare route of plastic burning.
When the material was burned and cooled at exact points, it produced a special type of soot from the burning residue. This soot could then be saponified into the beacon of hygiene: soap. And thus, the world's first 'plastic' soap was born.
There was another bit of silver lining to this project. One reason plastics are such a nightmare to handle is that there's so many types, and we can't really process all of them the same way. Therefore, a mountain of energy goes into segregating these types at processing plants.