For years, plastic waste has been floating in our oceans, with several major deposits located around the world, it is estimated that there are several billions of pounds of plastic slowly killing surrounding sea life and washing up on our shores.
The largest collection of plastic can be found in the Pacific Ocean, it has been likened to an additional continent, its sheer size hard to accurately describe. It has been accumulating plastic debris for decades, spitting it out on the beaches of pristine islands or finding its’ way in the belly or around the neck of local wildlife.
It has long been a problem that not many have acknowledged, but many within the technology and environmental sector have made it their life’s work to try and reduce the ever growing pile of plastic just beyond our sight, and scientists believe they may have finally had the breakthrough they were hoping for. James Holm, a sailor, and Dr. Swaminathan Ramesh teamed up to develop a mobile reactor that helps convert plastic waste into fuel, with the first prototype recently being unveiled at the American Chemical Society.
Able to be built in different shapes and sizes, the reactor is meant to be used on boats, ingesting sea water filled with plastic particles and waste, breaking it down into usable diesel fuel. Whilst the creators of this reactors have in mind to use the diesel to power local governments’ city vehicles, this fuel can then be used to power generators or engines, which make up a large part of the energy production and locomotion of small island nations. Initial field trials are set to begin soon in Santa Cruz, California.
Scientists are currently aware of only one drawback to the reactor: although it is reducing plastic waste in the oceans, it produces a potent fossil fuel. When considering the amount of plastic that could potentially be recycled in this manner, it would indeed produce a very significant amount of diesel, burning said fuel would not only be counter-productive to their overall goal but also release a non-negligible amount of carbon emissions.
That being said, this reactor is one of the more proactive methods to deal with the billions of pounds of plastic currently floating in our oceans. Despite its’ drawback it could be an interesting tool in the fight against pollution, and although it remains to be seen whether or not it will be deployed on a large scale, it is entirely possible that scientists find a way to tinker with it to make it more efficient.
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