Researchers in Iowa are hoping their work will one day eliminate plastics from landfills. Iowa State University professors are working with the West Central Iowa Coop and Renewable Energy Group in Ralston on the project.
Glen Meier, Research and Development Manager for Renewable Energy, says they’re trying to dissolve waste plastics into biodiesel. "Plastics are composed of a couple of polymers," Meier explains, "and when placed into biodiesel, they essentially dissolve into the biodiesel, and the strands that are wrapped together become disentangled. That would allow them to pass through the engine, and the increased mass and energy that was in those plastics would be carried on into the engine."
REG and ISU chemistry and engineering professors are entering the second year of research on the project. Meier says they’ve proven that dissolving plastics into biodiesel and using the fuel in generators works. Now, the team of researchers will determine how much plastic, and which types can be used without causing problems in the engine.
The research is being financed in a defense funding bill, and currently involves waste plastics used by soldiers. Meier says the estimated savings to taxpayers is over one million dollars a month – just from the military waste disposal costs. Meier says the researchers in Iowa are also getting help from San Diego based General Atomics.