Recycling of Polystyrene Cups via D-Limonene for Use in Fabric
Team: The New Norm
Program: Materials Science and Engineering
Our team has demonstrated a non-degradative method for cleanly and repeatedly recycling polystyrene (PS) drinking cups by dissolving them in d-limonene (D-L), an organic solvent derived from citrus rinds. This solvent is highly selective and only strongly dissolves PS among the common recycling polymers. It also removes common contaminants, as drink residues are water-based and non-soluble. The cleaned and separated PS can then be recovered from the D-L either via steam distillation, resulting in bulk PS, or via wet-spinning into a linear alkane, resulting in PS filament. This PS can then be reused, either for general PS uses such as drinking cups or styrofoam, or blended with other common polymers to produce a clothing-ready fabric.