Indian researchers report polystyrene recycling breakthrough

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In India, researchers at IIT Hyderabad have discovered a way to recycle the common polystyrene foam thermocol using citrus extract from orange peels.

Citrus extract was found to dissolve thermocol—which otherwise takes hundreds of years to biodegrade—almost instantly without added heat. The dissolved polystyrene is then drawn into fibers via wet-solution spinning.

The project is being led by Professor Chandra Shekhar Sharma from the Department of Chemical Engineering at IIT Hyderabad and has received financial support from the Technology Development Board, Department of Science and Technology.

“Using the orange peel extract to dissolve polystyrene will not change the chemical composition, and so will not make polystyrene into a biodegradable product. What this process does is to extend the use and life cycle of polystyrene waste material,” says Professor Sharma tells The Hindu.

Only 12% of polystyrene waste gets recycled currently, and citrus peel waste is plentiful.  A pilot-scale machine to demonstrate the process is currently being built.

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