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Plastic Waste Reverse Engineered Into Clean Fuel

A Griffith University researcher is hoping to revolutionise how plastic is recycled by converting it into fuel that is cleaner and more energy-efficient than petrol or diesel.

PhD student Songpol Boonsawat has developed a waste disposal system that turns household plastic waste, contaminated plastic waste and targeted plastic waste into fuel. “This work could revolutionise how to sustainably eliminate plastic waste from landfill and reduce the contamination of plastic in nature by closing the loop of the plastic product lifecycle,” Boonsawat says.

If implemented across homes and councils across Australia, the technology could reduce plastic waste in landfill by 80%.

Boonsawat says there is huge potential for some councils to convert plastics into as much as 73 million litres of oil each year. With 560 local government bodies in Australia, each handling thousands of tonnes of plastic waste per year, the oil produced could generate electric power up to 7566 MW/year, with an Australian market value of at least $21 million from selling by-products.

“The vast majority of plastic waste still goes into landfill sites where it remains for hundreds of years,” Boonsawat says. “The current traditional waste disposal treatment processes are not coping with plastics satisfactorily.”

Boonsawat says the fuel generated from the plastic can be used for petrol or diesel generators, engines or even gas or jet turbines. “We have been successfully producing quality fuels such as petrol, kerosene, diesel and fuel oil with lower emissions, and the technology also closes the loop of plastic product lifecycle compared to the current available waste disposal treatments worldwide,” he says.

“The fuel can be used effectively in systems like power generators or in machine engines,” he said.