By Leah Fox
Boffins have worked out how to turn unrecyclable plastic into fuel in a WORLD FIRST – and it could power 7,000 cars every two weeks and clean up the world’s oceans.
Experts at the University of Chester have discovered a new way to turn waste plastic which can’t be recycled – such as food packaging or plastic recovered from beaches – into eco-friendly hydrogen fuel and electricity with no plastic remaining.
The process involves taking the unsorted, unwashed plastic and cutting it into 5cm strips before it is melted in a 1,000 degree Celsius kiln to become gas and be converted into the green low carbon energy.
It is hoped the patented technology will soon be able to power not just its own 54-acre plant in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, but 7,000 houses on the grid in a single DAY and 7,000 hydrogen-fuelled cars every two weeks in the UK.
The innovation, created in partnership with PowerHouse Energy, will then be rolled out across Asia to help eliminate plastic from oceans and beaches worldwide – with the Japanese government already interested.
Professor Joe Howe, Executive Director of the Thornton Energy Research Institute at the University of Chester, said: “The technology converts all plastic waste into high quality, low carbon hydrogen syngas which can then be used to power gas engines.
“A by-product of this process is electricity, meaning waste plastic can not only fuel cars but can also keep the lights on at home.
“Surely the world must wake up to this technology.
“It will make waste plastic valuable with it being able to power the world’s towns and cities and most importantly it can help clean up our oceans of waste plastic now.”
For the last two years the innovative new method has been tested via a prototype demonstrator at the University of Chester, an identical but smaller-scale version of the huge kiln which will now be built at the Protos plant in Thornton Science Park, Ellesmere Port next spring.
The efficient conversion system will then be rolled out across China, India, Japan, Korea and South East Asia to clean up waste plastic, with plants buying cheap plastic waste – some from beaches – for just $50 USD a tonne.
Other similar technologies require the plastic to be pre-sorted and cleaned and also produce oil, but this is the first time experts have worked out a method which uses all types of dirty plastic and leaves no residue behind.
Howard White, deputy chairman of Waste2Tricity, which has the exclusive licence to develop the technology in the UK, Japan, Korea, China and South East Asia, said: “We are to have found a solution to the world’s waste plastic problem as we look to turn the plastic tap off in China, India and Asia – a zone which produces 90 per cent of the world’s ocean plastic.
“Cleaning up the oceans is all well and good, but we need to stop plastic waste from entering the ecosystem.
“The team at the University of Chester has helped us develop this technology, which will soon be ready for a large scale roll out to eliminate the bulk of ocean plastics and make low cost and low carbon dioxide hydrogen the go-to fuel for the future.”