Polyethylene is the most widely used type of plastic and you can see it in various products from plastic bags to shampoo bottles and more. Recycling plastic has always been a problem up until now because the methods used were either too expensive or ineffective in terms of the quality of the end product. According to the article published by the Washington State University, the United States recycles only 9 percent of its plastic every year.
In their experiment, the researchers used a ruthenium on carbon catalyst and a commonly used solvent. They managed to convert approximately 90 percent of the plastic they used to jet fuel components and it took them only an hour to do so. The temperature required was 428 degrees Fahrenheit (220 degrees Celsius), which according to them is moderate and lower than the one needed with typical methods such as chemical recycling for instance.
The process can be fine-tuned to create various types of high-quality polyethylene products and lubricants. Researchers also think they can apply the same principles to other types of plastic as well.
In addition to bringing lower costs and higher efficiency, this recycling technology can also reduce plastic waste that’s responsible for ocean pollution and degrading pristine environments.
Researchers are hoping they can soon scale up this process for commercialization.