“Plastics, we will never do without them”, judge two researchers from Bordeaux

What will be the plastics of tomorrow? A conference-debate, free and open to all, organized by the organic polymer chemistry laboratory (LCPO), proposes to take an interest in this question, this Wednesday, June 15. The event will take place at the INP (an establishment bringing together several engineering schools), at 5:30 p.m. Daniel Taton, professor at the University of Bordeaux and deputy director of the LCPO, and Thomas Vidil, researcher at the LCPO, answer questions from 20 minutes on their work, whose ambition is to reduce the environmental impact of these materials.

Where do you find plastic?

Daniel Taton, professor and deputy director of the LCPO. – Manon Gazin / 20 Minutes

Daniel Taton: We find plastic materials, which are mainly made up of polymers, in all areas of our daily lives. About 40% of plastics applications are for packaging. They are found in construction, transport, electrical and electronic devices, cosmetics, etc. For example, in face creams or shampoos, there are polymers (read framed).

Could we one day do without it?

Daniel Taton: I don’t think we’ll ever be without it. Plastics have been financed by the modernity of our society (…) There are also economic reasons. In Europe, in 2018, this industry employed 1.6 million people. And generated about 360 billion euros. And it will continue to increase (…) The question is to better manage their end of life.

Thomas Vidil, researcher at the LCPO on the Bordeaux conurbation.
Thomas Vidil, researcher at the LCPO on the Bordeaux conurbation. – Manon Gazin / 20 Minutes

Thomas Vidil: And there are health reasons. If we fell back on more expensive materials, a whole section of society would no longer be able to meet its most basic needs. Our hospitals, our canteens would close. We are working on solutions to make plastics more sustainable, through partnerships with manufacturers. In Bordeaux, there are in particular initiatives expected by the Region.

What would be the perfect plastic?

Daniel Taton: The ideal plastic is certainly one that comes from a renewable plant resource, which does not compete with the food chain.

Thomas Vidil: We have to design plastics that could be recycled, reused. Or that could last as long as possible, to ensure that they could be used for generations. And that’s our goal: to say that today, we have to find the best solutions so that tomorrow our plastics don’t have this negative impact on the environment (…) That’s what we work for every day in this laboratory.

A project for “greener” cosmetics

In 2018, the organic polymer chemistry laboratory (LCPO) created a joint laboratory with L’Oréal, dedicated to the innovation of “green” polymers. The objective of this initiative? Conduct joint research to develop polymers with cosmetic activities (skincare, make-up, etc.), which respect the environment. While maintaining the effectiveness and performance of the product in which they are used.

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