NEW DELHI — Researchers from the Dehradun-based Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP) have figured out a way to convert plastic waste into high-grade petrol and diesel for the first time in the country.
The decade of research has resulted in a combination of catalysts that converts plastic waste into either gasoline or diesel or aromatics, with liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as a byproduct. Different products are created from the same process through simply swapping catalysts and operating parameters.
The process has the added benefit of producing products that are of high quality, meeting Euro-III specifications. The diesel produced has almost zero sulfur content, vastly reducing emissions. Furthermore, vehicles using the high quality diesel can travel at least two kilometers more per liter than vehicles using ordinary diesel.
The process, if adopted for wide scale use, would dramatically decrease the price of petroleum. IIP Director M.O. Garg has said that the cost of petroleum using the process would cost Rs 30 to Rs 40 per liter, including the cost of the plant, operations, manpower and land, in comparison to petroleum derived from crude hydrocarbons, which currently costs approximately Rs 70 to Rs 80 per liter.
The IIP has applied for a patent and is currently planning to commercialize the technology. However, they are still in the process of accommodating heavy machinery and procedures.
Similar technologies are currently only available in Germany, Japan and the United States, while Australia and the United Kingdom’s alternatives are still in development.
But more important than economic benefits, the process has the potential to dramatically alter the burgeoning waste situation in India. The country has experienced huge increases of plastic waste and pollution due to a substantial growth in plastic consumption and use.
In 2013, India generated 5,600,000 tons of plastic waste, with the city of Delhi alone accounting for 689.5 tons each day. While approximately 9,205 tons of waste are collected and recycled each day, this only accounts for 60 percent of the total plastic waste, with 6,137 tons left uncollected and polluting the country. Moreover, efforts to recycle are not always carried out at the municipal levels.
A bench of Justices, G.S. Singhvi and Kurian Joseph, recommended last year the adoption of a two-pronged strategy for effective waste management in response to outcry against cities simply collecting waste and dumping it in villages.
Regardless, the issue of effective waste management and enforcement remains a problem. This new development has the potential to considerably change the waste situation in India and alleviate poverty throughout the country.
– William Ying
Sources: India Today, Daily Mail, Times of India 1, Times of India 2, UPI
Photo: Global Waste