Plastics have been a major environmental concern when it comes to their disposal since the majority of them end up in landfills. However, researchers from Japan have tried a new catalyst to recycle the common plastic, turning it into useful products such as wax and fuels. Plastics were made to last long and sustain any damage during handling. This very property has made it difficult to dispose of as it is extremely resistant to chemical reactions. For instance, thermal recycling one option available although it requires temperatures between 300 to 900 degrees Celsius. This means it consumes a massive amount of energy.
Researchers from Tohoku and Osaka City Universities were working on a new catalyst that could break and decompose plastic at lower temperatures. The team then found a combination of cerium dioxide and ruthenium can work most effectively, which will create a catalyst to recycle polyolefinic plastic at 200 degrees Celsius. According to the team, they were able to convert around 92% of plastic waste into useful materials. “Our approach acted as an effective and reusable heterogeneous catalyst, showing much higher activity than other metal-supported catalysts, working even under mild reaction conditions,” mentions Keiichi Tomishige and Masazumi Tamura, co-authors of the study.
The team further mentioned that around 77% of the recycled plastic became a liquid fuel, while 15% of becoming was wax. Researchers believe this new method is a more viable prospect in plastic recycling. That being said, this new process will take a lot of time before it is commercialized for vast applications. Recently, a team of researchers from UC Berkeley reported a new process to turn polyethylene into a new adhesive. “Furthermore, a plastic bag and waste plastics could be transformed to valuable chemicals in high yields,” explained researchers.