February 02, 2008

ISU goal: Transform plastic trash into fuel

Iowa researchers and biodiesel producers have joined a federal effort to convert plastic trash from military bases into fuel.

The research can change the disposal of plastic, said Balaji Narasimhan, an Iowa State University associate dean of research and economic development.

Narasimhan is among the ISU researchers trying to figure out how to make certain types of plastics dissolve in biodiesel at rates fast enough to use in the public or private sector, he said.

The project is supported by a $1.65 million defense appropriation. I have seen information on this before and it is part of the overall effort by the defense department to lower the environmental footprint of the military and also to lower the amount of fuel that would have to be shipped to remote bases.

Mitch Zafer of General Atomics said temporary military bases - where the technology will most likely first appear - produce 3,200 pounds of garbage in a five-day period, and about 330 pounds of that is plastic.

The technology would use the plastic trash to help make diesel fuel, which also would be used at camp, Zafer said.

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