A new chemical process could turn a quarter of our plastic waste into clean fuel
A new chemical conversion process could turn nearly a quarter of plastic waste into clean fuel and other products.
The problem: The world’s landfill sites and oceans are being flooded with plastic. A mere 9% of the 8.3 billion tons of plastic produced over the last 65 years have been recycled, according to the United Nations. Over eight million tons of plastic flow into our oceans every year, harming all sorts of wildlife in the process.
How it works: The technology works on polyolefin waste, the sort of plastic used for grocery bags, toys, and shrink wrap. This sort of plastic accounts for about 23% of plastic waste, according researchers who describe the process in a paper published in Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering. The new technique uses a process called hydrothermal liquefaction, in which very high temperatures melt pellets of polyolefin, then dissolve them into water. The byproducts of this process are oil, gas, or solvents.
On the bright side: Repurposing existing plastic into useful products could help to stem the tide. The researchers say their conversion process could be used on about 90% of the world’s polypropylene waste.
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