How to Convert Earth’s Plastic Pandemic Into Fuel

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1024 683 Miguel Ángel Martínez

Ninety-one percent of the billions of tons of plastic produced is never recycled. Instead, most of it ends up in landfills, on beaches, or in the ocean. So a team of researchers at Washington State University have devised a way to take old plastic and break it down into fuel.

Bioengineers working in biofuel development at WSU have spent the last 10 years using grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to develop ways to turn agricultural waste—like byproducts from farming and logging industries—into fuel. When farmers harvest corn and process it into kernels, for example, the leftover leaves and stems are valuable waste products that can be leveraged by innovative practices and turned into something new.

Hanwu Lei, a biological systems engineer who heads up the project, told The Daily Beast that one of the best things to do with that waste is make fuel.

“There’s a huge amount of biomass available,” he said. “We are trying to add value to this agriculture. So we develop it into a carbon catalyst that is also used to convert it into fuels.”

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