A Washington State University-led team has developed a process for turning polyethylene, or number 1 plastic bottles, into jet fuel. (Michael Coghlan Photo via Creative Commons)
Humans produce more than 6 billion tons of plastic every year, and its accumulation in landfills and oceans is considered by many to be an environmental crisis. Only 9% of plastics are recycled in the U.S., and while bans on single-use plastic bags and straws have some benefits, we’re nowhere near addressing the volume of tossed plastic bottles and containers, toys, furniture and other items.
Researchers at Washington State University have developed one approach to recycling discarded plastics: turning them back into the petroleum products from which most of them came by using a process called hydrogenolysis.
The scientists take polyethylene — which is better known as number 1 plastic — and apply heat, a chemical catalyst and solvents to break the material into jet fuel components or other hydrocarbon products. The process takes roughly an hour and a temperature of 220 degrees Celsius, or 428 degrees Fahrenheit, and converts 90% of the plastic into fuel. Researchers from the University of Washington and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory collaborated on the project.
“Converting waste plastics …read more
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