Chemical Conversion Technology Could Address Global Oceanic Pollution

The battle to preserve the environment isn’t going to end any time soon. Every day, individuals, organizations, and entire nations are performing various experiments, researching, and doing everything in their power to limit pollution in the oceans, groundwater, and the environment.

According to Purdue University, a new chemical conversion process could transform the world’s polyolefin waste, a specific form of plastic, into useful products like clean fuels. Since more than 8 million tons of plastics flow into oceans each year, this chemical conversion process could provide some major environmental benefits.

“Our strategy is to create a driving force for recycling by converting polyolefin waste into a wide range of valuable products, including polymers, naphtha (a mixture of hydrocarbons), or clean fuels,” said Linda Wang, leader of the research team developing this innovative technology and Maxine Spencer Nichols Professor in the Davidson School of Chemical Engineering at Purdue. “Our conversion technology has the potential to boost the profits of the recycling industry and shrink the world’s plastic waste stock.”

Once the plastic is converted into this healthier mixture of hydrocarbons, it can be utilized as a feedstock for other chemicals or further separated into specialty gases and other products and solvents. The specialty gas market is categorized into six applications: electronics and semiconductors, refrigeration, analytical and calibration, medical and healthcare, manufacturing, and others.

This new technology could convert up to 90% of the polyolefin plastic into useful, less environmentally-damaging materials.

“Plastic waste disposal, whether recycled or thrown away, does not mean the end of the story,” added Wang. “These plastics degrade slowly and release toxic microplastics and chemicals into the land and the water. This is a catastrophe, because once these pollutants are in the oceans, they are impossible to retrieve completely.”

On an individual level, what can be done to improve energy savings and decrease overall carbon footprint? Here are some great things that you can do to not only save money on your energy expenses, but help preserve the global environment, as well:

  • Replace old HVAC equipment — Replacing central air conditioning and other HVAC equipment, especially components that are more than 15 years old, can result in energy savings and boosts in efficiency.
  • Live by the 5 R’s — One of the best ways to improve the global climate is to learn and live by the 5 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refuse (using paper and plastic products), and Rot (composting food scraps).
  • Limit your residential water usage — Did you know that a single family can use up to 400 gallons of water in ONE day? Rather than wasting a significant amount of water each day, there are a few things you can to do save money and help protect our waterways. Don’t leave your faucet on when you’re brushing your teeth, take shorter showers, and never flush unnecessary items down the toilet to dispose of them. A single flush can waste up to five to seven gallons of water!

As long as researchers and individuals alike are thinking about how their actions impact the environment, the fight for the health and future of our planet will continue!

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