Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions

Our Sustainable Future: A greener, more sustainable source of ingredients for widely used plastics

November 11, 2013

Plastic lard
Scientists have developed a new way to convert a broad spectrum of animal oils and fats into a main ingredient used to make plastics that now come from petroleum. The products range from waste cooking oil to lard.
Credit: Stockbyte/Thinkstock

Summary

A new process can convert a wide variety of vegetable and animal fats and oils — ranging from lard to waste cooking oil — into a key ingredient for making plastics that currently comes from petroleum, scientists say. Their report on the first-of-its-kind process appears in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.

 

Today’s solution is a new process that can convert a wide variety of vegetable and animal fats and oils — ranging from lard to waste cooking oil — into a key ingredient for making plastics that currently comes from petroleum. The report appears in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.

The researchers explain that many of the plastics found in hundreds of everyday products begin with a group of chemical raw materials termed olefins that come from petroleum. They include ethylene, propylene and butadiene, which are building blocks for familiar plastics like polyethylene, polyester, polyvinyl chloride and polystyrene.

Here is Douglas C. Neckers, Ph.D., who is with Biosolar, LLC, and is coauthor of the paper with Maria Muro-Small, also with Biosolar, LLC:

“Our objective was to find a more sustainable alternative source of olefins. So we used “UV-C” light — used in sanitizing wounds to kill bacteria and to change lard, tallow, olive oil, canola oil and waste canola cooking oil into olefins.”

Their approach has not been used before, according to Neckers and Muro-Small.

Smart Chemists/Innovative Thinking

Smart chemists. Innovative thinking. That’s the key to solving global challenges of the 21st century. Please check out more of our full-length podcasts on wide-ranging issues facing chemistry and science, such as promoting public health, developing new fuels and confronting climate change, at www.acs.org/GlobalChallenges. Today’s podcast was written by Michael Bernstein. I’m Katie Cottingham at the American Chemical Society in Washington.

Douglas Neckers, Ph.D.
Douglas Neckers, Ph.D., Biosolar, LLC