Saving The Oceans: The Answer May Lie In A Futuristic Plant To Turn Trash Into Fuel
As anyone who has been paying any amount of attention knows, the oceans are in trouble.
Big trouble. From coral bleaching killing off upwards of a fourth of the coral that makes up the Great Barrier Reef to massive fish and sea mammal die-offs in the South Pacific, to the horrific amounts of plastic that litter the oceans creating massive artificial island of garbage that routinely poison, strangle and kill millions of fish and birds, never before has our disdain for the environment that sustains us been on such stark display.
Scientists now estimate that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish–especially if we keep the horrific rate at which we are over fishing and decimating fish stocks–and every minute of every day we dump the equivalent of a garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean, a rate that is expected to double by 2025, quadruple by 2050.
Unless something changes.
But now scientists in the U.S. and China seem to have hit upon a futuristic answer to all that plastic: they claim to have a process under development that would allow for the “…efficient and selective degradation of polyethylenes into liquid fuels,” according to a recent study published in the journal “Science Advances.”
The study, born of a joint effort from the Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry and the University of California is seeking to tackle the problem that exists with current methods for converting plastic into fuel, which uses ultraviolet radiation and is not considered very energy efficient.
But this new study has sussed out a process being called cross alkaline metathesis or CAM, which its creators say is a highly efficient method for breaking plastic–and which can then be converted into usable oil for vehicles.
“After multiple cycles of CAM with light alkanes, PE [petroleum ether] will be eventually converted to short hydrocarbons suitable for transportation oils,” said the report.
To create a cheap, efficient method for turning plastic waste into fuel to run our cars, trucks, ships and airplanes would surely be a welcome step toward relieving some of the burden we are placing on the sea. Although diverting these plastics into a useful rather than a wasteful form would be a godsend–plastics which in addition to killing fish are likely culprits in many health issues facing humans such as hormonal imbalances, genetic changes, reproductive dysfunction, asthma, liver dysfunction, and even cancer–the long term goal should of course be to rid ourselves of our dependence on them altogether.
For now, let’s just hope this study leads to action on the parts of governments and businesses, which, after all, are run by humans too, all of whom are threatened by what we are doing to the ocean.