The problem of dealing with large amounts of plastic waste is growing, despite all efforts of governmental officials to prevent it. Changes in policies, increase in prices of packaging, and even bans, do not seem to be very effective, probably because most people still believe in comfort during a shopping spree over protecting the environment.
In any case, the use of plastics have to be brought down to minimum, if not entirely replaced by bio-degradable alternatives, but until then new means of recycling and reuse have to be implemented, and this has to happen soon. In their quest to find a beneficial application of already used plastic bags, a team of scientists from University of Illinois developed a technique that converts plastic bags into fuel.
So, can it really be possible that our shopping bags may be turned into petroleum products? Apparently yes, according to Barbara Kumar Sharma and the rest of the team behind the study that appeared in the journal Fuel Processing Technology. Through the process of pyrolysis, or heating of plastic materials, the researchers demonstrated how to make ultra-low-sulfur diesel and biodiesel fuels out of our daily plastic waste. As the authors claim, the new fuel has higher combustion quality than regular diesel, better lubricity than conventional low-sulfur fuel, but it is equal in energy content.
The newly made diesel is perfectly suitable to be added to regular fuel without any problems with compatibility. The method is still to be assessed to whether up-scaling the production can make a difference in terms of dealing the plastic pollution problem.
This is not the first time we hear about researchers making use of plastics to produce fuel. Not long ago, we told you about a team of Indian scientists, who also developed a method to produce carbon-rich molecules, and consequently fuel, by adding a clay mineral. The guys are still looking for investors in order to commercialize their idea.
Image (c) Bryan Moser