Scientists from IIT Madras have developed a solar-powered system to convert non-recyclable plastic into fuel that can substitute diesel used in generators, furnaces, and engines.
The technology, which consists of a mobile unit that can collect and process waste, currently yields around 0.7 liters of fuel oil per one kg of plastic, researchers said.
India produces approximately 15,000 tons of plastic waste every day.
Too large to manage
Centralized system cannot deal with plastic waste that India produces
"Centralized systems for plastic waste management cannot effectively deal with India's plastic waste on a daily basis," said Ramya Selvaraj, a research student at IIT Madras in Tamil Nadu.
"Our major proposition was instead of taking technology to waste, let the decentralized technology come to plastic, which is a very complex model in solid waste management," said Aravind ES, another student.
'Beat Plastic Pollution' is theme of World Environment Day 2018
The team showcased its project on the occasion of the World Environment Day, hosted by the United Nations (UN) in New Delhi. The theme of this year's World Environment Day was "Beat Plastic Pollution".
Plastic is exposed to high temperature to convert into fuel
The conversion of plastic to fuel involves a process called pyrolysis, a thermochemical treatment that exposes the material to a high temperature of 350-500 degrees Celsius in the absence of oxygen, leading it to go through physical and chemical changes.
This creates a low-density fuel oil, which can be used as a substitute for diesel to power generators, furnaces, and engines.
IIT-M won Zero Carbon Challenge-2018
The team was led by Divya Priya, assisted by technical guide Professor Indumathi Nambi of IIT Madras, and industrial mentor Sriram Narasimhan of Samridhi Foundation, a Chennai based NGO.
They won the Zero Carbon Challenge 2018, pioneered by IIT Madras, bagging an initial funding of Rs. 5 lakh for the development of the prototype, and another Rs. 10 lakh for incubating the idea.
Setting up small recovery units for waste collection
"We have approached the Tamil Nadu government to put up the small recovery units at the material faculty in all the wards for waste collection. This can reduce costs involved in transportation, dumping-sites and increase the efficiency with which the waste is dealt," Selvaraj added.