While many people like to think that recycling is the antidote to our plastic problems, the reality is that most plastic waste doesn’t get recycled. On top of that, plastics that are recycled can only be recycled a couple times before the material is rendered useless and becomes waste. Alternatives to plastic are obviously needed, but new solutions for turning plastic waste into something useful are also needed before we transition to a post-plastic world. One solution is to turn plastics into clean fuels—something that a group of scientists at Purdue University are working on. The scientists are focusing on a type of plastic called polyolefin, the most common type of thermoplastic that features in everything from bottle caps to scientific instruments. Thus far they have demonstrated that their conversion technology can successfully turn plastic waste into fuels and other valuable products. The scientists believe that once their technology is scaled up on a more industrial level, it could potentially boost the profits of the recycling industry while shrinking the world’s plastic waste stock.

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