A team of researchers from Korea University have published a paper which could help accelerate development of novel carbon capture technologies while helping reduce waste plastic.

The paper determined the feasibility of using discarded plastic bottles as materials for capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) at an industrial scale. 

With waste plastic and carbon emissions considered two of the most critical environmental concerns of the 21st century, the research could accelerate the global transition to a more sustainable society. 

By using abundant plastic waste-derived porous materials capable of adsorbing CO2 from flue gas, industry could mitigate the high costs associated with materials for conventional CO2 capture in addition to utilising discarded plastic bottles.

Commenting on the research and the need to expand the scope of simulation procedures, Dr. Xiangzhou Yuan, Research Professor, Korea University, stated, “The primary steps in establishing an emerging technology involve the synthesis and simulation of its processes outside the laboratory in order to justify its improved sustainability and cost-effectiveness.” 

The key to realising plastic waste carbon capture lies in the synthesisation of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles to create inexpensive porous carbon. 

In lab-scale experiments the team used PET bottles to create three types of porous carbon materials before assessing clean flue gas output. 

The team then assessed the potential for the technology to mitigate the effects of climate change from the perspective of its environmental impact and economic viability. 

Results from the experiments showed that CO2 capture systems using PET-derived porous carbon can realistic ‘plastic and carbon closed loops’ at an industrial-scale. 

“The upcycling of plastic waste-derived porous carbon for CO2 capture is a promising approach to meet multiple SDGs (sustainable development goals), since it can mitigate climate change and plastic pollution simultaneously,” added Professor Yong Sik Ok, Korea University.