Used plastic packaging can be source of hydrogen

Eni, the Italian energy company, is carrying out research into the production of hydrogen from non-recyclable plastic packaging waste.

Plastic packaging is separated and recycled when waste is sorted so that it can be used again, which is usually done by transforming it into small granules that become the raw material for creating new products. However, not everything can be recycled.

The project is looking for new ways of transforming packaging waste into new raw materials. Over the next six months a working group will launch various research projects aimed at producing hydrogen and high quality bio-fuels from plastic waste. The research team will analyse the market for ‘non-mechanical recyclable packaging’ and the types of waste material that can be used in the project.

The research is aimed at creating ‘Plasmix’, a collective name for the different plastics found in packaging that are currently not recycled after use. In general, this material is burnt for energy generation, with some of it ending up in landfill sites.

Eni is already engaged in the production of bio-fuels made from cooking and deep-frying oil, animal fats and other inedible waste. Hydrogen forms an essential part of this process: it neutralises the acids in vegetable oils and converts triglycerides into paraffin and isoparaffins so that the sulphur, nitrogen and poly-aromatic hydrocarbons are completely removed from the bio-fuel.

The research is being carried out in a partnership between Eni and Corepla, the Italian consortium for collecting, recycling and recovering plastic packaging.