Saturday science subject: Turning plastic into oil

— 1:52 PM on June 30, 2007

A company called Global Resource Corporation has devised a system that allows plastics to be recycled back into oil and gas. As the New Scientist explains, the technique relies mainly on microwaves:

All that is needed, claims Global Resource Corporation (GRC), is a finely tuned microwave and – hey presto! – a mix of materials that were made from oil can be reduced back to oil and combustible gas (and a few leftovers).

Key to GRC’s process is a machine that uses 1200 different frequencies within the microwave range, which act on specific hydrocarbon materials. As the material is zapped at the appropriate wavelength, part of the hydrocarbons that make up the plastic and rubber in the material are broken down into diesel oil and combustible gas.

The New Scientist says running 9.1kg (20lbs) of ground car tires through the Hawk-10—GRC's microwave plastic recycling machine—generates 4.54 liters (1.2 gallons) of diesel oil, 1.42 cubic meters (50 cubic feet) of combustible gas, 1kg (2.2lbs) of steel, and 3.4kg (7.5lbs) of carbon black.
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