It sounds like a riddle doesn't it? Well, in some ways it is. Plastic is an increasing burden on our landfills and recycling efforts. Wouldn't it be great if we could just zap the plastic and make it go away? Well, yes!
The answer to the riddle has apparently been demonstrated by Global Resource Corporation: a plastic is no longer a plastic when you zap it with 1200 frequencies of microwaves tuned to interact with hydrocarbons!
Quite literally, the plastic melts and/or reverts back into a liquid and/or gaseous state, in the form of diesel, combustible gas and whatever non-hydrocarbon materials may have been included in the product.
A US company is taking plastics recycling to another level - turning them back into the oil they were made from, and gas.
All that is needed, claims Global Resource Corporation (GRC), is a finely tuned microwave and - hey presto! - a mix of materials that were made from oil can be reduced back to oil and combustible gas (and a few leftovers).
Key to GRC's process is a machine that uses 1200 different frequencies within the microwave range, which act on specific hydrocarbon materials. As the material is zapped at the appropriate wavelength, part of the hydrocarbons that make up the plastic and rubber in the material are broken down into diesel oil and combustible gas.
"Anything that has a hydrocarbon base will be affected by our process," says Jerry Meddick, director of business development at GRC, based in New Jersey. "We release those hydrocarbon molecules from the material and it then becomes gas and oil."
Whatever does not have a hydrocarbon base is left behind, minus any water it contained as this gets evaporated in the microwave.
This follows on the heels of another new waste disposal technology utilizing plasma (the fourth state of matter after solids, liquids and gases).
It seems these are the ways of the future!
Though, one jokingly hopes the no equivalent technology can be adapted that works on living flesh in a similar way or we may have just invented our first 'death ray'...