Could Recycled Plastic Packaging Become Electricity Wires?

Plastics commonly found in food packaging could see a new lease of life after recycling – as electric wires, according to new research by Swansea University.

The research, published in The Journal for Carbon Research, looked at chemical recycling, which uses the constituent elements of plastic to create new materials.

As plastics are pure, highly refined chemicals, they can be broken down into the elements they are made of – carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. These elements can then be bonded in different amounts and arrangements to create other materials.

Swansea University’s research team tested plastics including black plastics – frequently used as packaging for ready meals but less easy to recycle than other plastics.

According to the new research, it was possible to remove the carbon, and construct carbon nanotube molecules using the atoms. These nanotubes could then be used to transmit electricity to a light bulb.

Dr Alvin Orbaek White, a Sêr Cymru II Fellow at the Energy Safety Research Institute (ESRI) at Swansea University, commented, “The research is significant as carbon nanotubes can be used to solve the problem of electricity cables overheating and failing, which is responsible for about 8% of electricity is lost in transmission and distribution globally.”