The problem of disposing of plastics which is a major environmental issue will soon be resolved with the discovery that plastics can be recycled and turned into fuel.

The problem of disposing of plastics which is a major environmental issue will soon be resolved with the discovery that plastics can be recycled and turned into fuel.

The research findings by a group of Universiti Sains Malaysia students prove that almost all forms of plastics can be processed and converted into petrol, diesel natural gas, bitumen, lubricants and various other petrochemical products.

The research, carried out by Steven Lim, Shiraz Yusuf Patel Dawoodi and Khor Guat Kheng, final year students from the School of Chemical Engineering, USM is called ‘Novel Catalytic Process for the Degredation of Waste Polymers into Fuels & Chemical Feedstock’ is now being exhibited at the three-day National Research and Innovation Exhibition 2009, commencing today.

The research was fully funded by a Research University Grant and is among 159 research projects from various public and private institutions of higher learning that participated in the exhibition.

Steven Lim, the head of the research team said that he and his friends began the research six months ago as a final year project.

“We felt that we had to help overcome the issue of polymer waste management that is a major problem. Apart from the fact that we have to use a large area for landfills, it also results in environmental pollution if we attempt to dispose of it through burning.

”According to 2006 statistics, a total of 245 tons of plastics were used throughout the world. We know that hundreds of years can go by, but these products will not degrade naturally. The question now is, ‘What can we do with these plastics? This study gives us a novel alternative in overcoming the problem,” he said.

According to the study, the plastics that are to be processed for the production of petrochemical products has first to be reduced to powder form and all foreign materials removed before it can undergo the next process which involves the addition of several specific catalysts.

”We were also successful in finding a suitable catalyst in producing the required petrochemical products and our research findings revealed that these products are of higher quality compared to those produced through the system that is currently being used.

Dr. Ahmad Zuhairi Abdullah, the Programme Chairman (Bioprocess, Environmental Process), School of Chemical Engineering, USM supervised the research.

Steven added that this finding will lead to many possibilities, especially in the process of protecting the environment for the next generation.

”We also hope to continue this research at a higher level so that it is of benefit to mankind,” he said.

Prof. Omar Osman, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Student Affairs and Development), USM represented the Vice-Chancellor of USM and officially launched the NRIC 2009. More than 300 participants, representing 18 public and private institutions of higher learning throughout the country, took part in the exhibition.

Picture: PLASTICS TO PETROL... (From left) Khor, Steven and Shiraz exhibiting their research findinds which reveal that plastics can be successfully converted to petrochemical products and which has the potential to overcome the problem of environmental pollution. (Click on link below)

Published: 20 May 2009

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