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Plastic waste is a major source of litter in Scotland (Picture: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Prof. Erwin Reisner, an energy and sustainability expert at the University of Cambridge, has said that plastic waste has a lot of potential value in terms of oil production.

Every year, more than 400 million metric tons of plastic are manufactured worldwide, almost equal to the weight of the whole human population. However, 85% of plastic waste is either lost to the environment or ends up in landfill, where it will remain for hundreds or perhaps thousands of years.

“Effectively, plastic is another form of fossil fuel. It's rich in energy and in chemical composition, which we want to unlock,” Prof Reisner said.

The plastics industry is keen on chemical recycling, where additives alter the chemical structure of waste plastic, turning it back into substances that can be used as raw materials with the potential to be turned into fuels.

A survey I conducted in Scotland found many respondents supportive that this idea would benefit both the Scottish government and the United Kingdom.

Responding to the survey, Rhodalyn Smith, an immigration officer, indicated that “it (recycling plastic waste into fuel) will help to cut down [the] cost of fuel since there will be more production," with plastic's raw materials being easier to come by.

One way the Scottish government could realize this dream of plastic waste recycling is through the use of technology and business incentives.

“Encouraging the use of pyrolysis technology to convert plastic waste to fuel and providing incentives for the companies that invest in the pyrolysis technology,” Rijkaard Nii, a civil servant in Scotland, commented in the survey.

Nevertheless, recycling plastic waste into fuel came as a surprise to some individuals. Kwesi Yeboah, a healthcare practitioner, indicated, among other things, that the concept “sounds new” to him.

However, Mr Rijkaard Nii added that the concept was a “great vision” which needed more hands as this would benefit the UK and the globe as a whole. “I think I would like to have a plastic shredder to shred the plastics to be given to the companies in the recycling,” he said on his part in contributing to making Scotland a zero-waste society.


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