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Linda Wang: Turning Plastic into Fuel

By Tomas Reyes

We are at a turning point in human history. The vocabulary we use to define the challenges of our time has to change now, and by the millions. We must stop blaming stuff around us. Instead of saying we must fight climate change and global warming, we need to turn our attention to how we humans manage the land. This is not about beans or beef. It’s about toxic feedlots and toxic agriculture, and gold mines poisoning rivers like the Amazon. The red tide in Florida, the sargassum crisis in the Caribbean, thousands of fish, manatees, insects and people are dying because of human TOXIC MANAGEMENT of the natural world, we have disrupted the biogeochemical cycles of nitrogen and phosphorus. That’s what we need to fight: our own blindness. And we must do this now. If there is one goal for humanity, it is to protect the natural world. This is what must drive us. Raise your ambition today, to become a hero for life on earth, a protector of the natural world. I don’t know about you, but this is definitely personal. We can no longer trust what we eat, drink, breathe, see, hear and on top of that, our oceans are flooded with billions of tons of plastic. No healthy oceans, no air to breathe, it’s as simple as that. Did you know plankton produces 1/2 the oxygen we breathe, and captures 1/3 of the excess carbon from the atmosphere? Again, we must be obsessed with plastic pollution, with climate change, and obsessed with redesigning our Homo Sapiens management of natural resources to a circular, regenerative model where the #1 overarching goal is always to protect the natural world. On today’s episode our guest is Linda Wang. Linda is the Maxine Spencer Nichols Professor in the Davidson School of Chemical Engineering, Purdue University. In 2011, a major producer of plastics asked her team to develop a method to recover polycarbonate from an electronic waste. They developed the first extraction method to recover high-purity polycarbonate and they also developed a new chromatography separation method to recover flame retardants from the waste. During this research project, however, she realized that the polycarbonate waste is only 1% of the total plastic waste, and the total amount of plastic waste has been growing exponentially over the past six decades. You can only recycle plastic so many times. What do you do next then? Linda and team have come up with a solution, using supercritical water to create fuel out of plastic waste. This episode, part 2 of our plastic series, is yet another example to show all of us that It is possible to change reality and tackle very objective problems. We just need to imagine a different role for ourselves, as managers of the natural world, roll up our sleeves, and get to work, since there’s a lot to do. Before we jump right in, and if you are enjoying our content, I would be so grateful if you went to iTunes or Apple Podcasts on your iPhone and gave us 5 stars and a great review, these help us grow and get this information to more people like you who are ready to support this global transformation, and share important knowledge and the stories of the heroes of our time.

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