Disposing used plastic bags has become a big issue for all cities across the globe. American throw away 100 billion plastic bags every year and only 13% gets recycled. Now, researchers at Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, University of Illinois, U.S.A., have found a process to convert these used plastic bags into compatible drop-in diesel fuel, along with a host of other petroleum products, like natural gas, naphtha, gasoline, waxes and lubricating oils.
The conversion uses the pyrolysis process (which I had talked about similar process in Malaysia Is Pushing For 2nd-Generation Biofuel), which involves heating the plastic bags in an oxygen-free chamber which is able to recover. It is able to recover almost 80% of the plastic into useful products.
This diesel recovered from the plastic bags has an equivalent energy content, a higher cetane number and better lubricity than ultra-low-sulfur diesel. The team was able to blend up to 30% of their plastic-derived diesel into regular diesel without any compatibility problems.
The remaining question now is whether this process can be successfully scaled up and makes a significant impact in recovering those used plastic bags.