JAMES KING-HOLMES / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY JAMES KING-HOLMES / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Plastics recycling. Chemical engineer David Wilson holding a sample of waste plastic (left) and an oil feedstock reclaimed from it at BP's Feedstock Recycling Pilot Plant at Grangemouth, Scotland. The waste plastic is first cleaned and shredded. It is then passed through a fluidised bed of sand at over 400 degrees Celsius, breaking the long molecules in the plastic down into smaller, basic hydrocarbons. The hydrocarbons, in gaseous form, are filtered and condensed to produce this pure, waxy substance. This may be used as a primary feedstock for refineries or the petrochemical industry. Waste heat is itself recycled in the system, giving an energy efficiency of 85%-90%.
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