Scientists developed self-destructive plastic 50 years ago

This plastic will self-destruct – Science News, Aug. 7, 1971

Public outrage over waste and trash has led industry to ask chemists whether self-destructive or rapidly degradable plastics could be developed to replace indestructible … glass, aluminum and plastics that make up the bulk of consumer waste. [Chemist James] Guillet and his team … have developed a self-destructive plastic that is about to be marketed – wrapping paper that will dissolve in about a month.

To update

Guillet’s work on polymers that degrade with light helped pave the way for their wider commercial use. But these materials may have caused more problems than they solved. Most plastics end up in landfills, where the materials do not get enough light to degrade as intended (SN: 01/30/21, p. 20). Plastics that decompose become microscopic pieces that can land in ecosystems and harm animals. Scientists are trying to produce more environmentally friendly plastics, such as compostable plastics that can be completely broken down with enzymes (SN: 6/5/21, p. 5).

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