The world is drowning in plastic. Each year, over 300 million tons of plastic finds its way to a landfill or into the environment where it will take hundreds of years to decompose. Every year that nothing is done, millions of tons of plastic flow into the oceans, where they are swallowed by wildlife and kill coral reefs.
A team of chemists at Purdue may have found a partial solution to our plastic woes. As detailed in a paper published this week in Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, the chemists discovered a way to convert polypropylene—a type of plastic commonly used in toys, medical devices, and product packaging like potato chip bags—into gasoline and diesel-like fuel. The researchers said that this fuel is pure enough to be used as blendstock, a main component of fuel used in motorized vehicles.
The obvious benefit of this new conversion process is cleaning up the environment by finding a use for plastic waste. But as Purdue chemist Linda Wang pointed out in a statement, the fact that the produced fuel can be sold for a profit will also encourage the recycling industry to rapidly adopt it.