Environment: Making Plastic Rot

Americans discard more than 3,000,000 tons of plastic every year. Most of it ends up in local dumps, creating mountains of nonrotting, nonrusting, immortal trash. Three years ago, a team of scientists led by a University of Toronto chemist designed a plastic that would self-destruct in direct sunlight; a company in Delaware offers a kind of cellulose that dissolves in water; another in Idaho is marketing a process that makes styrene products break down into photodegradable substances. But such products have been handicapped by high costs or limited applicability.

Now, British Chemist Gerry Griffin, of Brunei University near London, claims that he...

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