x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Finally, a purpose for plastic bags

A young Masdar Institute researcher plans to convert the most common kind of plastic into fuel.

Rana Qudaih, 24, is interested in converting waste such as plastic bags into fuel, or recycling it commercially.
Rana Qudaih, 24, is interested in converting waste such as plastic bags into fuel, or recycling it commercially.

ABU DHABI // Plastic bags could be converted into fuel if a Masdar Institute researcher's proposal becomes a reality.

Rana Qudaih, a Palestinian who was born and raised in Abu Dhabi, said she was developing methods of reducing plastic waste.

Through thermal chemical conversion, allowing nitrogen to decompose at high temperatures and pressure in the absence of oxygen, Ms Qudaih can produce oil and gases that could be used as sources of energy, she said.

They could also be used as substitutes for petroleum-based feedstock, fuel that is used in industrial machines.

Ms Qudaih, 24, who received a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the American University of Sharjah, said: "I'm very interested in converting waste to energy."

She said that after she graduated from Masdar Institute next Sunday, she hoped to become a specialist in the renewable energy sector.

Ms Qudaih explained that another method of converting plastic involved mixing different proportions of silane polyethylene waste, a significant amount of which is generated by the electric cable industry.

By infusing different amounts, the recycled material could be stronger with better mechanical properties.

It could then be moulded and used in different applications.

"To either convert the plastic waste into a new product, like the fuel, or to recycle the material depends on your objective or interests," Ms Qudaih said.

She said she hoped to develop both methods commercially and estimated nearly 70 per cent of Abu Dhabi's waste is low-density polyethylene, such as plastic bags.

The Emirates produces up to 8,000 tonnes of plastic film, the material in bags and wrapping, every month.

Consumers in the UAE use about 2 billion plastic bags a year, though the government has taken some steps to eventually ban them.

"It is important to find efficient solutions to reduce low-density polyethylene waste and its impact on the environment," she said.

Ms Qudaih conducted much of her research using discarded electric cables from a local manufacturing company.

As for life after Masdar, Ms Qudaih said she might seek a doctorate and continue her study as applied research, adding that Masdar Institute had prepared her for another degree.