Faculty Publication: Redefining Sustainable Polymers

Yutan Getzler, Associate Professor of Chemistry has published an article “Redefining Sustainable Polymers” in the December 2020, 10th anniversary issue of ACS Macro Letters. The article was selected for free open access publication by the journal editors, awarded to 0.6% of ACS publications in 2020.His co-authors include Danielle E. Fagnani,  Jessica L. Tami, Graeme Copley, Mackenzie N. Clemons, and Anne J. McNeil.


Although Staudinger realized makromoleküles had enormous potential, he likely did not anticipate the consequences of their universal adoption. With 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste now contaminating our land, water, and air, we are facing an environmental and public health crisis. Synthetic polymer chemists can help create a more sustainable future, but are we on the right path to do so? Herein, a comprehensive literature survey reveals that there has been an increased focus on “sustainable polymers” in recent years, but most papers focus on biomass-derived feedstocks. In contrast, there is less focus on polymer end-of-life fates. Moving forward, we suggest an increased emphasis on chemical recycling, which sees value in plastic waste and promotes a closed-loop plastic economy. To help keep us on the path to sustainability, the synthetic polymer community should routinely seek the systems perspective offered by life cycle assessment.

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