Plastic to Fuel


  • GS prelims, GS Mains paper III
  • Sci-tech, Environment, Plastic pollution, Fuels

What’s the news?

  • Recently, scientists at Washington State University (US) have found a way to transform plastic into jet fuel.


  • At least 4.8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each yearworldwide.
  • Scientists have recently discovered microplastics embedded deep in the Arctic ice.
  • Plastics consistently make up 60 to 90% of all marine debris studied.
  • Recent studies have revealed marine plastic pollution in 100% of marine turtles, 59% of whales, 36% of seals and 40% of seabird species examined.
  • 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and 1 million sea birds are killed by marine plastic pollution annually.
  • Less than a fifth of all plastic is recycled globally
  • By 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than there are fish (by weight)
  • Plastic is found in the ocean as far as 11km deep, meaning synthetic fibers have contaminated even the most remote places on Earth

How can plastic be used as a fuel?

  • There is a lot of hydrogen in plastics, which is a key component in fuel.
  • To produce jet fuel, the researchers melted plastic waste at high temperature with activated carbon.
  • The carbon is a catalyst or a substance that speeds up a chemical reaction without being consumed by the reaction.
  • After testing several different catalysts at different temperatures, the best result they had produced a mixture of 85 percent jet fuel and 15 percent diesel fuel

How can the citizens help recycle plastic?

  • Imagine it this way – you’re buying the contents, but renting the container.
  • That’s the idea, with plastic, glass and metal drinks containers.
  • You buy your soft drink and it’s 10-20p more expensive than it was before, but when you take the bottle back to the retailer and post it into the ‘reverse vending machine’ you’ll get your deposit back.
  • This is called Deposit Return Scheme in UK and can be replicated in India.

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