People all around the world are now trying to practice and actively advocate for environmental sustainability. The biggest revolution taking place these days is with the consumption of plastic items. Companies are introducing more environmentally friendly options for packaging. However, the biggest problem of plastic still remains: recycling and decomposition. More than 300 million tons of plastic actually adds up in landfills. The worst part: plastic takes centuries to decompose, killing off wildlife in the process.
However, scientists have found a way to make plastic more useful than harmful. We finally have the opportunity to turn plastic into fuel! Let’s learn more.
Who, What, Where, When?
At Purdue, the efforts of chemists finding a solution to our plastic problems have finally paid off. They have detailed their efforts and research in a paper that was published this year in Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering. The chemists have found that polypropylene, plastic commonly found in medical devices, product packaging and toys, can be converted into gasoline or dieselesque fuel.
The team have stated that the fuel is so pure that is can be used in place of ‘blendstock,’ which is a main element used in different motorized vehicles.
The waste that polypropylene contributes to the world is approximately 5 billion tons that have been filling up landfills globally during the past 50 years or so.
They figured out that the way to convert polypropylene into usable energy would be through the use of supercritical water. Supercritical water is an underdeveloped stage of water when both the characters of gas and liquid can be demonstrated, keeping in mind the temperature and pressure conditions.
Linda Wang, one of the chemists at Purdue, along with her team heated H2O to a temperature between 716 degrees and 932 degrees Fahrenheit at the pressure of 2300 times more than atmospheric pressure found at sea level.
Thus, when a pure version of polypropylene waste was mixed into supercritical water, it was changed to oil in just a few hours, varying upon the temperature conditions. It was found that heating the water at 850 degrees Fahrenheit lowered the conversion time to less than an hour.
The main by-products of this conversion process were diesel and gasolineish oils. The researchers have claimed that this process can be used as a way to convert an estimated 90% of worldwide polypropylene waste into fuel every year!
Here is what Linda Wang said about this discovery: “Plastic waste disposal, whether recycled or thrown away, does not mean the end of the story. 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.”
The Bottom Line
This discovery is a monumental breakthrough discovery that could possibly save the planet and all of its inhabitants! The way proposed can be adopted worldwide and will not only help us to keep our environment cleaner but help us make out lives more sustainable.