New Recycling Process Could Turn Trash into Fuel
Recycling plastics has always been a struggle for us. Whether it is plastic bottles, bags or packaging, it is normally made from materials that don’t degrade very quickly and often end up sitting at the bottom of the ocean or stuck somewhere in our beautiful landscape for hundreds of thousands of years.
Currently, polyethylene is the largest used plastic in the world in terms of the amount of volume, but recycling it is a tough process and not very efficient. New studies have been carried out that intend to turn the world of plastic recycling around and make use of all of this discarded waste.
The joint U.S – China team, have been working on developing a process that converts the unused waste plastic and recycles it back into fuels that we can use. Using a two-catalyst process, the researchers were able to break down the polyethylene based products using light alkanes. The first catalyst works at separating the hydrogen atoms from the carbon atoms in the plastic, allowing carbon atoms to join to form a strong, double bond. It is this double bond that manages to break down the plastic molecules, and this process is repeated over and over until the once polymer has now been transformed into alkanes with enough carbon molecules to be used as diesel fuel.
This could be a revolutionary breakthrough in the world of recycling and could help put an end to the costly, damaging effects of landfill sites as we know them. Being able to turn trash into fuel is exciting and could bring a whole host of possibilities to a variety of sectors should this process be commercialized.