JAN 03, 2017 6:27 AM PST

Killing Two Birds With One Stone: Recycling Plastics into Fuel

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Plastic waste products are ubiquitous in our daily lives. From shopping bags to bottles, it's estimated that Americans alone produce about 10.5 million tons of plastic waste every year. Tragically, we only recycle about 1 to 2 percent of this wasted resource, with the rest left for eternity in our landfills and oceans.

A clever group of scientists at the Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry and the University of California, Irvine wanted to solve the problem of plastic waste. Furthermore, they also wanted to tackle the ever-increasing need for fuel resources. Ingeniously, they devised a chemical reaction that would turn the polyethylene components of plastics into diesel fuel. The process involves rearranging the carbon and hydrogen atoms into alkanes. The byproduct is diesel fuel and a waxy residue that can be turned into resin.

Watch the video to learn more about this clever reaction.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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