Recycling plastic bags into fuel

By Erica Quednau |

Published 02/13 2014 06:38PM

Updated 02/17 2014 03:48PM

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS -- A lot of plastic is landing in landfills and waterways. How about it landing in your car? Researchers at UI say it could help your drive. Dozens of plastic bags are sitting somewhere in your home. But, what to do with them? WCIA-3's Erica Quednau finds out the latest possibility.

They're everywhere. In our homes, in the trees and blowing in the wind. They could be a hazard to the environment.

"It's causing a lot of problems. If it's not going to the proper place, it may end up in the waterways and then it may end up in the ocean."

"Plastic bags are one of the infamous culprits of an end product plastic."

So, B.K. Sharma and Jennifer Deluhery have spent the past two years finding the best way to recycle them.

"We've been trying to look at things you can do with the plastic, to turn it back into a petroleum fuel that it started from."

"We went back. We did the reversible reaction."

That reversible reaction turned the plastic bags into fuel.

"Once we have this plastic crude oil, then we can get different fuel products from it like gasoline, diesel 1, diesel 2."

So, let me give you an idea about how many plastic bags it will take. About eight pounds of these makes a gallon of this. So, when you consider the excess of one-million tons of plastic converted into crude oil, it'll make almost four million barrels. That equals almost $400 million.

"It's a great feeling. They see plastic all over their house. They need to be able to put fuel in their cars and they see a surplus of one and the other one being crazy expensive and this is trying to solve both problems."

Sharma and his research team are taking the plastic talk even further. They're looking into how other materials can be converted into fuel; things like medicine bottles and plastic liners.

There's definitely a need to recycle all those bags. More than a trillion of them are used every year around the world. The US is responsible for a billion of them. A single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to dissolve.

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