Science Questions

Can we recover energy from plastics?

Tue, 22nd Mar 2016

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Helen Coltarty asked:

If plastics require fossil fuels to be produced then why are we not able to harvest or extract that energy back after plastic articles aren't useful?


We put Helen's question to Cambridge University's Ben Pilgrim... Plastic bottles



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Actually, we can; one way is to burn the plastic and extract the heat and use it, which some places are set up to do, including the hospital at which I work. An alternative is to use the plastic as a carbon source to limit consumption of other hydrocarbons, thereby reducing manufacturing costs and also the carbon budget. One example of this is the use of plastic waste as a carbon source in blast furnaces to reduce iron oxide, a process pioneered by metallurgists in Australia about a decade ago. chris, Fri, 25th Sep 2015

One of the best uses of scrap plastics is to recycle them into supermarket carrier bags. Alas, the UK government is about to put a tax on this activity, so it will just end up as landfill. alancalverd, Fri, 25th Sep 2015

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