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The Future of Waste Management: Converting Plastic to Fuel

There has been a rising awareness of alternative disposable methods for the mounting plastic waste problem. One of which includes plastic-to-fuel projects that have started to gain traction in the energy industry. This innovative solution holds promise to not only curb pollution but also provide significant economic benefits. According to the American Chemistry Council, plastic-to-fuel facilities could create 39,000 jobs in the US alone and $9 billion in economic output.

What’s more, plastic-derived fuels are capable of producing a cleaner burning fuel than traditional sources due to their low sulfur content. Let us look at three such projects that are focused on converting plastic waste to fuels such as diesel and petroleum.

Scientists from the University of California along with researchers from the Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry have come up with a plastic recycling method in which polyethylene plastic is dissolved to create petroleum. Typically, polyethylene requires a significant amount of heat or reactive, toxic chemicals to break the atomic bonds. This process, however, makes the resulting compound unusable. The method developed by these scientists and researchers, on the other hand, uses less heat and allows the final product to be a cleaner source of fuel.

A team of researchers, led by UC Irvine chemist Zhibin Guan, made use of hydrocarbon molecules that are used to make polymers to create fuel. By removing and adding bonds between the carbon and hydrogen atoms within the material, the team was able to turn polyethylene into liquid fuel. This fuel can be used in automobiles and for other industrial purposes.

Another project led by two self-taught inventors from France have designed a low-tech machine that melts plastic waste into diesel and fuel. The main objective behind the invention is to help combat plastic pollution and provide fuel to regions in developing countries. Plastic waste is fed into a closed reactor and they are broken down at 450-degree Celsius to produce gasoline and diesel. According to creator Christofer Costes, a kilo of plastic waste can give a liter of liquid fuel.

With such incredible innovations to convert plastic waste to fuel, it makes us wonder what could be next?


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