It is likely that a half-century ago even enthusiastic and optimistic proponents of the synthetic polymer industry (Mr. McGuire included) could not have predicted the massive scale on which synthetic polymers would be manufactured and used today. Ultimately, the future success of this industry will rely on the development of sustainable polymers - materials derived from renewable feedstocks that are safe in both production and use and that can be recycled or disposed of in ways that are environmentally innocuous. Meeting these criteria in an economical manner cannot be achieved without transformative basic research that is the hallmark of this journal. In this Perspective we highlight five research topics - the synthesis of renewable monomers and of degradable polymers, the development of chemical recycling strategies, new classes of reprocessable thermosets, and the design of advanced catalysts - that we believe will play a vital role in the development of sustainable polymers. We also offer our outlook on several outstanding challenges facing the polymer community in the broad area of sustainable polymers.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank the Center for Sustainable Polymers (CSP) at the University of Minnesota, a National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported Center for Chemical Innovation (CHE-1413862), for support of our efforts. We gratefully acknowledge members of the CSP for innumerable stimulating and invaluable discussions since its inception in 2009.