A team of researchers from the National Institute of Technology, Calicut (NIT-C), has developed a technology that converts plastic waste into cooking gas, without causing pollution.
The team, led by Lisa Sreejith, associate professor, Department of Chemistry, NIT-C and N. Sitaraman, retired chemistry professor of the institute, told The Hindu that the cost-effective and eco-friendly breakthrough was achieved through a thermochemical decomposition of the shredded waste plastic at an elevated temperature in the absence of oxygen.
“As much as 750 ml of gas can be produced from a mere four grams of plastic waste using the technology (750 litre from 4 kg),” said Dr. Lisa. Apart from the gas, other costly chemicals including the plasticizers employed to make plastic more pliable, can also be extracted during the process, she said.
Unlike in the existing recycling system, no plastic item is rejected in the new method. “The trials have been successful in disintegrating all kinds of plastics including polythene, bottles, bags, tyres, charring plastics such as toffee covers and thermocol,” said Dr. Lisa.
According to Dr. Lisa, a plant for processing 100 tonnes of plastic waste daily can be set up at an estimated cost of Rs.2.5 crore. “This includes machinery and storage facilities for gas in liquid form as it is done in refineries,” she said.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has lauded Dr. Lisa and her team on their feat. “Mr. Chandy has also expressed his wish see the demonstration of the technology,” she said.
Dr. Sitaraman said that the technology could make a huge difference in the lives of millions of people if utilised effectively.
“We expect the government to respond positively to this development,” said Dr. Sitaraman.
According to Dr. Lisa, the team has submitted the project to various State and Central funding agencies, including the Department of Science and Technology of the Union government for approval. “The patent filing process also is in progress,” said Dr. Lisa.
The technology was demonstrated in front a group of invited guests including Kozhikode MLA A. Pradeepkumar on the NIT-C campus recently. Mr. Pradeepkumar said
the technology should be utilised with the help of local bodies and residential associations such as Niravu Vengeri, which systematically collect plastic wastes from residents and hand them over periodically to plastic recycling units.