Identification of plastic helps fight pollution


Brisbane – Identifying plastics could help trace waste back to its source and hold the biggest polluters accountable. Possible techniques include polymer chemistry, which can be used to chemically label plastics, according to a research paper from Australia.

One of the biggest challenges in combating plastic pollution is tracing plastic back to its source, according to an article on the Australian platform Open Access Government. Now, using a combination of DNA-like coding techniques, a team of researchers from the Queensland University of Technology(QUT) in Brisbane has found that plastic identification could be a strategy to combat the crisis-growing plastic pollution.

Tracking plastic dissolves the anonymity of plastic waste, Professor Christopher Barner-Kowollik, head of the QUT team that conducted the work, is quoted as saying. One method could be to chemically label plastic batches with sequence-defined polymers that can be decoded in a similar way to DNA. “If there is technology that allows each batch of plastic produced to be given a unique ‘DNA,’ the plastic waste could be traced back to the manufacturer because the stored information could be easily read,” Professor Barner-Kowollik said.

According to the research, identifying those responsible for plastic pollution “could lead to plastic phase-out.” However, the challenge of implementation in international legal frameworks remains.

“One of the first challenges with an international problem like this is obviously the question of jurisdiction,” Professor Afshin Akhtar-Khavari is quoted as saying, also of the QUT research team. A coordinated international approach is critical, he said, but requires careful analysis of the underlying international legal principles. Still, “with this combined approach-polymer science and international law-consumers and policymakers could hold the biggest polluters accountable.” em