Eureka! Scientists discover new catalyst to recycle plastics into fuel and wax effectively

In a new study, the researchers at Tohoku and Osaka City Universities have found a new catalyst that can recycle plastic into useful products. The researchers were successful in recycling the polyolefinic plastic which is found in everything from grocery bags, food packaging to toys and electronics, into fuel and wax. 

The researchers in Japan had set out to find a new catalyst that could break down plastics at lower temperatures as plastics are quite resistant to chemical reactions. Fortunately, the researchers found an effective way of recycling plastics at 200 °C (392 °F) by combining ruthenium and cerium dioxide.

Masazumi Tamura and Keiichi Tomishige, the co-authors of this study said, “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…Furthermore, a plastic bag and waste plastics could be transformed into valuable chemicals in high yields”. The research result was published last year on December 10 in a journal titled Applied Catalysis B: Environmental.

According to the researchers they were successful in converting about 77 percent of the plastic waste into fuel and 15 percent of the plastic waste produced wax, making a total of 92 percent useful materials out of plastic wastes. 

“This catalyst system is expected to contribute to not only suppression of plastic wastes but also to the utilization of plastic wastes as raw materials for production of chemicals,” said Tamura. Yosuke Nakaji, Shuhei Miyaoka, Yoshinao Nakagawa, affiliated with the Graduate School of Engineering at Tohoku University and  Shogo Kumagai, Mifumi Tanji, Toshiaki Yoshioka, affiliated with the Graduate School of Environmental Studies at Tohoku University are the other contributors to this study.

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