New solar-powered technology can transform plastic waste into sustainable fuels and cosmetics
Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed a system that can convert waste into chemical products using renewable energy.
The technology can transform two streams of waste – greenhouse gases and plastic – into two sustainable fuels – syngas and glycolic acid – at the same time. This is the first time the process has been achieved using a solar-powered reactor.
Approximately 300 million tonnes of plastic waste – an amount equivalent to the weight of the human population – are produced every year, according to the UN Environment Programme. However, only 9 per cent is recycled, leaving the rest to accumulate in landfills or pollute our oceans with microplastics. Chemical recycling, where plastic is converted into fuels, requires extremely high temperatures. The high cost and inefficiency of this process act as disincentives, but this new solar powered system could change that…