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Los Alamos National Laboratory is part of a consortium developing a technology to rapidly break down discarded plastic at the molecular level into components that can be used to create other materials, such as nylon. The year-old research and development effort has been dubbed BOTTLE. The program was launched in November. Early research has led to identifying enzymes that can biodegrade plastic noticeably within several days, versus the several hundred years it normally would take for the material to decompose. Now the teams want to accelerate the decomposition, because breaking down the plastic in days is not nearly fast enough, lab scientist Taraka Dale said. “So what we’re shooting for is really observable changes and degradation in a matter of, ideally, hours,” said Dale, who leads the lab’s BOTTLE program. “So that you can, in theory, put this in an industrial process eventually.” The process would be fairly straightforward for users, she said. A vendor would grind up plastic trash and load it with the enzymes into a tank partially filled with water. The enzymes would break down and dissolve the plastic into the liquid. They would then transform the molecules into polymers for higher-grade products, such as carpets and clothing. Dale likened it to dismantling a brick house, and instead of simply reusing the bricks, you turn them into boards for a different purpose. The company could sell the raw material to a manufacturer, Dale said. This conversion of throwaway items and scraps into higher-quality goods, such as fabrics, would be “upcycling,” she said.

Eyes on China

With the introduction of favourable national policies and improvement of pandemic in Shanghai, market confidence has recovered, which coupled with falling domestic aluminium inventories, allowed SHFE aluminium to record five consecutive days of gains. Macro front On May 15, Shanghai held the 184th press conference on the prevention and control of COVID-19, and said that the resumption of business will be promoted in stages from May 16. The PBOC and the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission jointly issued the Notice on Adjustment of Differential Housing Credit Policies on May 15. It shows that for households who take loans to buy ordinary self-owned houses, the lower limit of the commercial personal housing loan interest rate for first time home buyers is adjusted to not lower than 20 basis points below LPR of the corresponding term. Fundamentals: The aluminium ingot social inventories across China’s eight major markets totalled 984,000 mt as of May 16, down 19,000 mt from a week ago and 77,000 mt lower than a year ago. This also marked a monthly drop of 55,000 mt. The domestic pandemic is gradually under control, and its negative impact on downstream consumption has weakened, allowing market sentiment to improve. An aluminium smelter in Yunnan reduced production due to an accident last Friday, which also boosted market sentiment. Aluminum prices are expected to rebound further in the short term. However, in the long run, the upside room of SHFE aluminium will depend on consumption recovery.

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