Converting plastic waste to hydrogen energy could help heat homes in the UK

Converting plastic waste to hydrogen energy could help heat homes in the UK

July 25, 2019 1 By Erin Kilgore

A group of scientists have found a way to use dirty plastic waste to generate hydrogen.

Researchers from the University of Chester have found a way to convert waste plastic to hydrogen that can be used to heat homes and fuel cars with clean power free of greenhouse gas emissions. The process requires a glass kiln that’s heated to 1,000 Celsius to instantly breakdown unrecyclable plastic, which releases a mixture of gasses, one of them being hydrogen.

The waste to energy project could help keep 25 million tons of plastics out of landfills and oceans.

The waste plastic to hydrogen energy conversion project could help keep 25 million tons of plastic waste that cannot be recycled from winding up in landfills or the ocean, according to Peele Environmental.

“Surely the world must wake up to this technology,” said Professor Joe Howe of the University of Chester, The Guardian reports.

“It will make waste plastic valuable with it being able to power the world’s towns and cities, and most importantly it can help clean up our oceans of waste plastic now.”

Peele Environmental is the owner of the plant where the waste to energy project will take place. The technology will be used commercially for the first time at the plant, later this year. The plant is located near Ellesmere Port in Cheshire.

Hydrogen fuel may be clean but the burning plastic waste to hydrogen production process is not.

Although hydrogen itself does not produce greenhouse gas emissions, creating hydrogen from plastic releases greenhouses gases, including methane, which raises concerns among environmentalists in regard to the practicality of these projects.

However, the Cheshire project aims to trap the greenhouse gasses that are produced and pipe them into a power plant to generate electricity. While not the cleanest solution, it also would not inject any more pollution into the atmosphere than the UK’s existing gas-fired plants. Additionally, with this project, there would be no need to extract more gas from the ground.

Moreover, it is believed that this type of gas-generated electricity could help wean economies off coal-fired electricity, which continues to be a top energy producer in Asia.

In the UK, Committee on Climate Change, the government’s climate watchdog, warns that trapping and storing any carbon emissions from hydrogen production will be “essential” to meet the government’s climate goals.

Many believe that hydrogen could play a vital role in helping the UK meet these goals by replacing gasoline and diesel in cars, vans and buses, as well as replacing traditional gas in boilers radiators and stoves.

plastic waste to hydrogen - single-use plastic itemsThe university researchers developed the waste plastic to hydrogen project with Powerhouse Energy and they hope to take the tech to Japan and south-east Asia where hydrogen-powered buses are already on the roads.