When it comes to making an environmentally friendly polymer, chemists tend to think that starting with a renewably sourced monomer is all it takes. But according to Eugene Y.-X. Chen of Colorado State University, a biobased monomer is only one of three criteria needed to build such a material: “A green synthesis and product recyclability are important too.”

To emphasize that point, Chen and postdoctoral researcher Miao Hong have developed a new synthetic process to create what they believe is a “truly sustainable polymer.” They polymerize a biobased monomer using a metal-free organocatalyst to make a fully recyclable material. Chen and Hong described their approach in a pair of presentations during a Division of Polymer Chemistry session Sunday at the American Chemical Society national meeting in San Diego.

Chen and Hong created what they call “truly sustainable polymers” by using a biobased monomer in an organocatalyst polymerization process to make recyclable polymers.