What if I told you there is a solution to the plastics problem that also benefits our fuel needs?
No, it is not a pie in the sky or science fiction solution. The technology exists and we really should be using it.
Let’s begin with ever expanding movement to ban plastic bags-an effort I find to be quite irritating. Clearly, the folks who wish to never again see plastic in a supermarket either have someone to do their shopping for them or are simply not paying attention to just how surrounded they are by plastics that come in all forms, shapes and purposes.
First, there are the plastic bags used by retailers at checkout. Then, there’s all the plastic bags that the merchandise comes wrapped in to keep it clean and to contain it. How about all the plastic bags you put your produce and fruit into at the grocery store? Of course, there is the plastic that many foods come wrapped in.
Plastic bags are everywhere and those who want to just make them disappear are delusional.
Don’t misunderstand me as I am not arguing plastic isn’t a problem.
We produce a lot of it. We discard a lot of it. Our landfills, our landscape and our oceans are awash in it.
According to the folks at The Plastic Soup Foundation, the production of plastic has increased every year since 1950 by 8%. Indeed, more plastic has been produced over the last 10 years than in the whole of the 20th century- which isn’t particularly surprising as plastic is a relatively new product.
But if you still need convincing that we do have a plastic problem, you should visit the Oceana organization’s page and view the spinning numbers as they calculate how many pounds of plastic entered the oceans since you clicked on the page.
So significant is this problem, note that in the next 30 years there will be more plastic in the ocean than there are fish.
So, let’s just acknowledge that while the world of shopping requires plastic, that reality creates a serious problem and one that needs resolution using our human creativity.
I’m not talking about legal creativity.
And I’m not talking about some lawmaker who comes up with a “plastic credit plan” that sounds a lot like a carbon credit plan designed to curb usage.
What if we could take that plastic and recycle roughly a quarter of it into a fuel?
That would certainly be a very good start.
The good news is that researchers at Purdue University say they have found a way to do just that.
And there is more good news.
According to Professor Nien-Hwa Linda Wang of Purdue’s School of Chemical Engineering, roughly two-thirds of all plastic can be repurposed.
Right now we collect only 14% of all plastic discarded and re-cycle 9%. Professor Wang has found a way to effectively and efficiently handle 63% of all the plastic we produce. And here’s the bonus-it creates more energy than it uses.
More energy out than in meaning more energy created than energy used to deal with a problem.
Purdue University provided the seed money for Professor Wang’s research and has produced a useful result. Now, the time has come for industry to step up to the plate to take the Professor’s research and convert it to marketable products to solve our plastics problem.
Wang’s work may not solve all of our plastic problems, but it certainly puts us well along the way.
Now it is up to adventurous capitalists to take the ball and run it over the goal line.
The world’s oceans will thank you for it.