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How plastic grocery bags can get turned into fuel for cars

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Put used plastic bags in your car's tank and convert polyethylene waste into liquid fuel. How are the bags converted? With a catalyst. Researchers in India have developed a relatively low-temperature process to convert certain kinds of plastic waste into liquid fuel as a way to reuse discarded plastic bags and other products. The researchers could boost the yield to almost 80% and minimize reaction times, in a new study. But this type of boost required a lot more use of a catalyst (such as 1 kg of kaolin) for every 2 kg of plastic.

This one's about turning a plastic grocery bag into fuel for your automobile instead of the plastic grocery, retail store, or garbage bag or painter's drop sheet ending up in the ocean or landfills. For example 50 ounces equals 1 kg (one kilogram). And one kilogram equals 417.48g (grams). Talk about turning a pig's ear into a silk purse. For every 50 ounces (1kilogram) of waste plastic in the new study, researchers could produce 700 grams of liquid fuel. You also may wish to check out the site, "Plastic Film Recycling."

The byproducts were combustible gases and wax

Researchers report full details next month in the International Journal of Environment and Waste Management. You can check out the abstract of the latest study, "Thermo-catalytic degradation of low density polyethylene to liquid fuel over kaolin catalyst" in International Journal of Environment and Waste Management, February 2014, 13, 104-114.

Scientists in India have developed a relatively low-temperature process to convert certain kinds of plastic waste into liquid fuel as a way to re-use discarded plastic bags and other products. They report full details next month in the International Journal of Environment and Waste Management (Inderscience Publishers) , according to the January 27, 2014 news release, "Put a plastic bag in your tank."

Many pundits describe the present time as the "plastic age" for good reason and as such we generate a lot plastic waste

Among that waste is the common polymer, low-density polyethylene (LDPE), which is used to make many types of container, medical and laboratory equipment, computer components and, of course, plastic bags. Recycling initiatives are in place in many parts of the world, but much of the polyethylene waste ends up in landfill, dispersed in the environment or in the sea.

Chemist Achyut Kumar Panda of Centurion University of Technology and Management Odisha, India is working with chemical engineer Raghubansh Kumar Singh of the National Institute of Technology, Orissa, India, to develop a commercially viable technology for efficiently rendering LDPE into a liquid fuel. Given that most plastics are made from petrochemicals, this solution to plastic recycling brings the life-cycle full circle allowing a second use as an oil substitute. The process could, if implemented on a large enough scale, reduce pressures on landfill as well as ameliorating the effects of dwindling oil supplies in a world with increasing demands on petrochemicals for fuel.

In their approach, the team heats the plastic waste to between 400 and 500 Celsius over a kaolin catalyst

This causes the plastic's long chain polymer chains to break apart in a process known as thermo-catalytic degradation. This releases large quantities of much smaller, carbon-rich molecules. The team used the analytical technique of gas chromatography coupled mass spectrometry to characterize these product molecules and found the components of their liquid fuel to be mainly paraffins and olefins 10 to 16 carbon atoms long. This, they explain, makes the liquid fuel very similar chemically to conventional petrochemical fuels.

In terms of the catalyst, Kaolin is a clay mineral - containing aluminum and silicon. It acts as a catalyst by providing a large reactive surface on which the polymer molecules can sit and so be exposed to high temperature inside the batch reactor, which breaks them apart. The team optimized the reaction at 450 Celsius a temperature with the lowest amount of kaolin at which more than 70% of the liquid fuel is produced. It's time to recycle your plastic bags. See the YouTube video, "How Plastic Bags Get Recycled. Also you may wish to check out, "How to Recycle Ziploc Bags - Recycling Plastic." Or see, "4 Ways to Recycle Old Plastic Bags ."


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