Scientists from Purdue University have developed a new chemical technique that might help cut down on harmful plastic waste by turning the waste back into useful polymers and clean fuel.
New technique turns plastic waste into useable, clean fuel
The technique works on polypropylene, which is used to make everything from toys to snack food bags, according to the study published in the journal Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering.
The method makes use of super-heated water (heated between 380°C and 500°C) to convert the plastic into a gasoline and diesel-like fuel that could be used to fuel conventional vehicles. Researchers believe that their technique could be used to convert around 90% of the world’s polypropylene waste into fuel each year, wrote New Atlas.
“Our strategy is to create a driving force for recycling by converting polyolefin waste into a wide range of valuable products, including polymers, naphtha (a mixture of hydrocarbons), or clean fuels,” said lead researcher Linda Wang. “Our conversion technology has the potential to boost the profits of the recycling industry and shrink the world’s plastic waste stock.”
The research stated that polypropylene accounts for around 23% of the five billions of tons of plastic waste that has been cast into landfills and the environment. This means that if could be turned into a valuable commodity, it would create a huge incentive to recover and re-purpose it, as per Futurism.
“Plastic waste disposal, whether recycled or thrown away, does not mean the end of the story,” Wang said. “These plastics degrade slowly and release toxic microplastics and chemicals into the land and the water. This is a catastrophe, because once these pollutants are in the oceans, they are impossible to retrieve completely.”