When I was in elementary school, I dreamed of a giant vacuum that could suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and make it into oil to run our cars. My mother still has the drawing somewhere. As I got older, and became enthralled with marine debris the dream was to get a big boat, and sail the High Seas, picking up trash along the way, and melting it into the fuel we needed to run our expedition. We wouldn’t have to go back to port to get fuel, meaning we could go further, stay out longer, and make a bigger difference. The trouble is that I am a biologist, not an engineer or a chemist, so even though I can imagine the ability to break down a petroleum based product back into petroleum, I have no idea how (or if) it can actually be done… apparently it can.
Pyrolysis is a process that breaks plastic down to it’s basic molecules, which can then be used to make fuel or more plastic. The research being spearheaded by a lab at the University of Warwick is a huge step forward for more efficient recycling. But the lab has bigger goals, looking at installing this technology on ships that suck plastic out of the water and turn it into fuel.
Perhaps my dream of fuel neutral, plastic studying, research vessel is not as far fetched as it once seemed.
Read the article here