Waste Management: Purdue University Develops New Process That Turns Plastic Into Clean Fuels

Plastic waste
A woman sorts plastic litter collected from a garbage dump to be recycled into roofing tiles at the Envirogreen recycling plant in Mogadishu, Somalia January 13, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Feisal Omar)

Purdue University scientists have developed a new chemical conversion process that could turn plastic waste into clean fuels and other products that could help curb the world's waste problem.

According to Tech Explorist, the new waste management strategy has the capacity to convert over 90 percent of polyolefin (a form of plastic) waste into various products that could be used in some industries. These products include monomers, naphtha, pure polymers, and fuels.

Maxine Spencer Nichols Professor in the Davidson School of Chemical Engineering at Purdue University, Linda Wang said of the project, "Our conversion technology has the potential to boost the profits of the recycling industry and shrink the world's plastic waste stock."

Clean fuels are becoming a hot topic these days due to the growing risks that come with global warming. With Purdue University's new plastic conversion method, biofuels could be easier to produce and distribute to interested countries. In fact, the project's scientists said the huge amount of polyolefin waste that the world generates each year can provide 4 percent of clean fuel supply to help with the demand in diesel or gasoline.

Wang noted that the new waste management method will encourage recycling companies to further reduce the amount of plastic waste. The team is currently in search of dedicated investors who share the goal of creating a cleaner environment.

Meanwhile, a recent study highlighted the importance of using recycled plastics to help lessen greenhouse gas emissions. The Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) released a report titled "Life Cycle Impacts for Postconsumer Recycled Resins: PET, HDPE and PP" late in January.

The report discovered that the use of recycled plastic has the power to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses by up to 67 percent for PET. Aside from potentially curbing the impacts of global warming, energy consumption can also be lessened by 79 percent if more industries make use of recycled plastics.

President and CEO of APR, Steve Alexander said of the report," This study shows a win-win situation for companies who incorporate recycled plastic resin into their new products." Alexander explained that recycled plastics not only help improve environmental sustainability but could also increase awareness about the benefits of recycled goods to society.

CEO of Mexico PET reclaimer PetStar and Chairman of the APR Board of Directors, Jaime Camara echoed Alexander's comments. He stressed the significance of investing in recycling infrastructures and facilities, adding that the use of recycled materials not only help in global waste management efforts but are also "good for manufacturers" and consumers.

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