Waste to Wealth strategy is what will help in dealing with plastic waste efficiently. Discuss some of innovations for recycling plastics.

Published: October 14, 2019

As per the Ministry of Environment, only about 60 per cent of the plastic wastes get recycled and the rest gets dumped in landfills, clogs drains, goes into the ocean as micro-plastics, or is burnt, leading to air pollution.

Recycling Plastics: Alternate source of Fuel

Blend for Diesel

Researchers from IIT Delhi are working on chemically breaking down plastics to its smaller hydrocarbon molecules and then synthesising diesel out of it.

The process which uses packaging material, Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, polystyrene, and multi-layer packaging for diesel synthesis is aimed at ending the life of plastic.

The fuel so produced can currently be used as a blend in stationary diesel machines like generators and needs further testing and standardisation to be used as commercial diesel in vehicles.

Commercial Diesel

The CSIR – IIP in Dehradun is working on a similar process to create commercial grade diesel.

Plastics are mainly made of carbon and hydrogen similar to fossil fuels. At CSIR-IIP a plant has been set up to convert waste plastic to diesel. For every 1,000 kg of plastic, one can make 800 litres of diesel. The balance is mostly LPG which is used to heat the reactor that makes the diesel.

Fossil Fuel Derivates

A German chemical producer called BASF is working on a similar chemical recycling method to create a raw material usually derived from fossil fuels for its products.

Challenge in Scaling up

The main challenge with these recycling technologies is pricing. The marketability of the diesel also depends on the crude price of petroleum and the resulting products in the market.

With the proven technology, scientists are now devising ways and means to close the loop and create a circular economy for plastic, meaning all the plastic produced should be reused and recycled.

Recycling Plastics: Road Construction

This technology was developed by Dr Rajagopalan Vasudevan, professor at Thiagarajar College of Engineering in Madurai. This technology is based on the fact that plastic is derived from petroleum just like Bitumen which can be used in the construction of roads.

Way Forward

Plastic is a necessary evil and processes such as these are necessary to combat the challenge of existing plastic waste. But this must not undermine the fact that there is a need to focus on developing effective alternatives which can help in reducing the use of plastic products.

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