Plastic pollution is one of the major environmental challenges of our time.
All the plastic waste we produce ends up either in the landfill or the ocean. Now researchers from Japan have developed a way to recycle a certain kind of plastic into useful products. This plastic is found in everything, such as food packaging, grocery bags, and toys.
Scientists have used a novel catalyst process to recycle plastics into liquid fuels and wax. Plastics are very difficult to dispose of because they are very resistant to chemical reactions. Present recycling techniques require a lot of energy. It requires temperatures between 300 °C and 900 °C (572 °F and 1,650 °F).
Now researchers have discovered a new catalyst that could help recycle plastics at lower temperatures. Researchers created this catalyst by combining ruthenium and cerium dioxide. The catalyst so formed is capable of recycling polyolefinic plastics at just 200 °C (392 °F).
Masazumi Tamura and Keiichi Tomishige, co-authors of the study, said, “Our approach acted as an effective and reusable heterogeneous catalyst, showing much higher activity than other metal-supported catalysts, working even under mild reaction conditions,”
“Furthermore, a plastic bag and waste plastics could be transformed to valuable chemicals in high yields.”
The researchers successfully processed about 92 percent of the waste plastic into useful materials. Not only that it also includes a 77% yield of liquid fuel and a 15% yield of wax.
“This catalyst system is expected to contribute to not only the suppression of plastic wastes but also to the utilization of plastic wastes as raw materials for the production of chemicals,” Tamura and Tomishige said.