Nobody needs an introduction on how plastic has been taking over our planet and destroying it little by little every passing minute. Taking out all the plastic floating around is only solving half the problem, the real issue is, what do you do with all of it? Some scientists know the answer.
According to a report by India Times, researchers at Purdue University have devised a new chemical technique that can re-purpose polypropylene. Polypropylene is the most commonly used type of plastic. It is used in everything from toys to wafer packets.
But how does it exactly work? The process uses super-heated water to convert the plastic into liquid fuel similar to fossil fuels like petrol and diesel. Supercritical water, which is when water behaves as both a liquid and gas under extremely high temperature and pressure, is added to the polypropylene, which converts it to oil within a few hours.
“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,” Linda Wang, the research team’s leader, was quoted saying in the report.
“Our conversion technology has the potential to boost the profits of the recycling industry and shrink the world’s plastic waste stock.”
“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.”
Approximately five billion tons of waste plastic floats in our oceans and clogs up our drainpipes. The India Times report mentioned, that scientists estimate about 23 percent of this plastic waste is made up of polypropylene. If further research is done and more funds are put in, maybe this study could grow and we could finally have a sturdy and reliable alternate fuel source other than petrol and diesel, thus, reducing the stress on fossil fuels while getting rid of a huge chunk of waste plastic from our planet. Killing two birds with one stone.