Innovation That Matters

A new recycling method could work on the plastic pollution of everything from toys to food packaging and electronics | Photo source Brian Yurasits on Unsplash

Low-impact recycling process turns everyday plastic waste into useful materials

Agriculture & Energy

The most common plastic waste products can now become usable manufacturing fuels and waxes

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Spotted: Researchers from Japan’s Osaka City and Tohoku universities created a method for recycling plastic at a much lower temperature than is required by current techniques. The lower temperature greatly reduces the volume of energy needed to power the process. At the moment, temperatures of at least 573 degrees Kelvin are required to break down the world’s most common plastics.

The new method uses a catalyst of ruthenium (a metal) combined with cerium dioxide to create a reaction in waste products at a temperature of 473 degrees Kelvin. Of particular interest is the high rate of useful materials produced by this formula. In one trial that included breaking down a plastic bag, the final yield was 77 per cent liquid fuel and 15 per cent wax. Such substances form a crucial building block for many manufacturing processes. Not only could waste be reduced, but a huge range of industries could also further mitigate other types of pollution by using these new fuel sources.

Scientists believe the process will work on the plastic pollution of everything from toys to food packaging and electronics. Being able to swiftly, easily and with far fewer resources recycle the ubiquitous waste that is choking the planet could transform environmentalism for decades.  

As fast as the plastic mountain is growing, innovators are finding ever larger, more efficient and more rapidly built solutions to help address the ever-changing quantity of pollution. From recyclable PPE gloves to airport seating that completely eliminates the use of plastic, projects that focus on reducing waste are the first step in a long line of necessary societal improvements.

Written by: Keely Khoury



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