Scientists have developed a new method through which vegetable and animal fats and oils - ranging from lard to waste cooking oil - can be converted to a key ingredient for making plastics that currently comes from petroleum, according to scientists.
Douglas Neckers and Maria Muro-Small explained that many of the plastics found in hundreds of everyday products begin with a group of chemical raw materials termed olefins that come from petroleum, which includes ethylene, propylene and butadiene - the building blocks for familiar plastics like polyethylene, polyester, polyvinyl chloride and polystyrene.
However, the scientists sought a more sustainable alternative source of olefins and in their report described use of "UV-C" light-used in sanitizing wands to kill bacteria and viruses around the house-to change lard, tallow, olive oil, canola oil and waste canola cooking oil into olefins.
Neckers and Muro-Small said that this is the first report on use of this photochemical process to make olefins.
The findings have been published in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering