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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Scientists discover an easy way to recycle plastic

Researchers may have found a way to eliminate plastic wastes are cheap and easy, by making it into liquid fuel and wax. Polyethylene (PE) is the most common form of plastic and can be found anywhere, such as a container for storing things, water bottles, plastic bags and much more.

Plastic is convenient, inexpensive, lightweight and strong, but also can not be destroyed as long as 500 to 1,000 years, and it becomes a problem.
In a major breakthrough, scientists have developed a new method to turn polyethylene, the most common form of plastic used in making grocery bags and bottles, into liquid fuels and waxes. (Picture from: http://adf.ly/1bPEUX)
"Most are not recycled. There is a large plastic trash in the Pacific Ocean and micro plastic granules scattered throughout the marine environment," said David Constable of the American Chemical Society.

The numbers reached 8 trillion micro plastic granules per day, and according to a research from Oregon State University. Although the grain itself is not dangerous, they absorb toxic wastes and pollutants end up in the marine environment, and from there they go up the food chain and then consumed by human.

Another problem is the difficulty of plastic recycling, is much more difficult than recycling paper or glass or metal such as aluminum. 

The good news, the researchers may have found a way to eliminate plastic waste is easy and cheap, and converts it into fuel and wax.

The new research is reported in the journal Science Advances on Friday, June 17, 2016 which is part of a four-year research project by scientists from the University of Shanghai and the University of California, Irvine.

Zheng Huang, an organic chemist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that they have been doing a process called catalytic cross alkane metathesis (CAM), which uses carbon-based molecules called alkanes and hydrogen to break down the hydrocarbons that make polyethylene.

"After facing many cycles of CAM with light alkanes," said Zheng, "PE will eventually be converted into short hydrocarbons suitable for transportation fuels."

He told VOA that the fuels can be used in diesel engines and light alkanes that are used to break up the PE "very cheap and widely available."

The best part is, according to Zheng, that "catalysts that are used can tolerate a variety of additives in plastics."

But he said the process was not perfect. For example, once all the CAM cycle, not a lot of fuel or wax that is left to be extracted.

The result is "not enough to recycle large quantities of plastic waste," he said. But "we believe the system more efficient and lower cost catalysts, this technology will achieve the application of PE plastic waste degradation in the large scales."

That is what is being pursued by him and his team. They are also trying to see if this process can be implemented on other types of plastic. *** [EKA | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | VOA NEWS]
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