Researchers at the University of Purdue claim they found a technique that can turn plastic waste into clean fuel. They hit this as a partial but promising solution for the future to be adaptable to solve the plastic mounted problem. But why researchers are being needed to put their enormous effort into finding a solution for something the world has not even been started care for?
In just 65 years, plastic waste has gone more than 8.3 billion tons and has started drowning us. This much amount of unbearable weight is equivalent to 25,000 Empire State Buildings. It will take centuries to decompose and will cause incalculable harm to wildlife and the environment. Talking about the numbers, only 12% out of those 8.3 billion plastic wastes incinerates, which only compounds the problem. Barely 9% of the waste is recycled.
In 2018 only, plastic weighing almost 300 million tons have been dumped around the world from which a large quantity could come back into our food chain. The remaining will take millions of years to break-up and by then will have destroyed many species. As the crisis of plastic waste grows, researchers have searched for various ways to save our energy-starved planet. Fortunately, this one problem could instead be now turned into a boom for our fuel consumption. Researchers have come up with their solution of converting pollutants into eco-friendly fuel.
The process of conversion
According to the paper published in Sustainable Chemistry And Engineering, chemists from the University of Purdue have succeeded in converting polypropylene into gasoline, and fuel similar to diesel. Polypropylene usually used to make chips bags, medical devices, and toys. Polypropylene alone mounts 25% of the accumulated plastic waste of 5 billion tons over the last 5 decades. Researchers claim that the fuel produced can be utilized as a blendstock (unfinished oil) to produce both petrol and diesel-like substances.
Researchers have used supercritical water, a stage of water where it behaves as both liquid and gas- depending on conditions like temperature and pressure. Professor Linda Wang, the head of the research team associated with the University, performed the experiment where they heated water to extremely high temperatures varying 716 °F and 932 °F at pressures were 2300 times above air pressure at sea level.
A diesel-like oil and gasoline are by-products during this process. Researchers are confident that 90% of total polypropylene could be turned into fuel using this.
The hope for a plastic-free world
Many experts claim and blame that the global energy market is monopolized by large multi-billion dollar corporations where they control the central supply and distribution of fuel. They spent billions on fuel production assets that are bolstered by the fossil fuel industry. Big-shorts have been reluctant to adopt renewable sources of energy, lobbying to influence public interest and obstruct innovation.
However, many true agencies are inspiring individuals, communities to hope and dig-out every pile of pollutants to save the only planet we have. Before this plastic waste overwhelms us, conversion seems the only feasible solution at this moment. And this is only possible when the intervention happens at a great ratio where the amount of plastic destroyed has to exceed the amount of produce each year.
Professor Wang also points out that converting plastics into fuel is just not the solution. The plastics end-up in the ocean are impossible to retrieve. It is slowly killing all marine life and expected to dominate the remained ecosystem by 2048. They release toxic chemicals and degrade into micro-plastics, which is just creating an imbalance in the food chain and affecting coastal localities.
To stop the total production of plastics, every home, every individual, and every community must try to find a way to convert them into other materials that biodegrade.