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Making diesel out of waste plastic – a SIFE-MSU Project

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A few days ago, I attended a TEDxChange event in Harare, a local Harare independent chapter of the international TEDxChange initiative, which is a partnership of TED and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The objective of the events is to encourage conversations on “ideas worth spreading” on health, development, and education issues. It’s really a great event to attend and those that managed to attend will attest to this.

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Amoung the inspiring presentations made at the event was this project by a BOOST-SIFE Zimbabwe team of students at the Midlands State University (more about the BOOST-SIFE initiative here), which I thought would be great share here. The project is called Gre-Cycling and it’s basically research on a machine that converts waste plastic to diesel. The conversion process produces by-products that include candle wax and low cost floor polish. The project has been entered and has so far qualified for the semi-final round of the global Dell Social Innovation Challenge. Here’s the project’s page on the Dell Challenge website.

According to the SIFE-MSU team, their machine can theoretically convert 60kgs of waste plastic into 60 litres of diesel. A model they’re building, which costs about US $2,000 to complete, will be able to produce diesel at $0.33. The team is piloting the project in a residential area close to their university in Gweru called Senga. The Senga community, according to them, will benefit through revenue generation, job creation and a clean environment as the waste will be collected from unattended dumps in the community. The profits that the project makes will go towards infrastructural development of the community.

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We had an opportunity to chat to the SIFE-MSU team leader who’s handling their marketing and online efforts for the team and he told us they’re presenting other ideas at an event where all SIFE teams in Zimbabwe will be showcasing their ideas on 19 April in Harare. Looking forward to it!


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6 thoughts on “Making diesel out of waste plastic – a SIFE-MSU Project

  1. Oh yeah this is one innovationation that Zimbabwe needs to take up and develop… i hope fellow citizens and government shall assist MSU Students to achieve much much more…that reminds me of the Haicom: some device that NUSt students came up with between 2002 and 2005… well such innovations are proof they are bright minds in this country…i challenge financial institutions to be part and parcel of these very innovative startups…

  2. can someone tell me the technology actually works, i mean what is the chemistry behind this? I know its possible because most plastics are a product of crude oil… i just need to understand how the reverse processes will occur…

  3. This project actually works. the SIFE-MSU team has already conducted experiments in labs and has produced clean combustible fuel. Plastics are made up of long chains of Hydrogen, Oxygen and Carbon (plus additional elements depending on the plastics ) under the right conditions and heat (distillation), you can break these elements down to
    hydrocarbons which make up your fuel. Depending on how refined you want it and the plastics you use you can get different diesel, gasoline or pariffin fractions.

  4. I really support the idea.Many leading environmental organisations such as Environment Africa have been calling for such as an initiative.However,its implementation in Zimbabwe has not kicked off because of the high costs needed to acquire the machines which are too expensive for it to be done at a larger scale and might chew the budget of the whole country.However, with such projects coming from students i think with committment we can do it.Japan is doing that.

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