By Fredrica Syren:
We live in a society where everything is plastic because of our throwaway mentality. For someone like me, who consciously tries to avoid plastic as much as possible, it’s hard and takes a lot of work; and sometimes even then I end up with plastic bags.
There is more awareness regarding plastic and more efforts are being made (even bans on plastic) to replace it with more sustainable options. However, it’s not happening fast enough, and as a result our environment suffers. Facts are that over 1 trillion plastic bags are being used worldwide each year, and lots of them will end up polluting our water, the ocean, and harming wildlife. Actually, plastic bags are the second most common type of trash after cigarette butts. Even if they do make it to a landfill, it’s estimated to take as long as 1,000 years to degrade. In the meantime, they leak toxins.
But there is some good news to come. Plastic shopping bags have been found useable for making a compatible drop-in diesel fuel as well as a host of other petroleum products, which would potentially recover a large percentage of initial manufacturing input. The discovery was made by researchers at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, where they used a process that involved heating the plastic bags in an oxygen-free chamber. Hopes are that the team will be able to fine-tune the process and eventually produce a fuel that meets standards for ultra-low-sulfur diesel and biodiesel fuels.
Who knows if or when this project will be used commercially. But I, for one, think it’s a glimmer of hope. It’s a hope that scientists will find a way to make a dent in the huge amount of trash plastic creates and find a way to reuse the bags while reducing the number of them.