Plastic is a big problem, like, bigger-than-Texas big. Giant islands of plastic trash — one in the North Pacific Ocean is estimated by some to cover an area twice the size of the Lone Star State — are accumulating at sea, with some 9 million metric tons added to the oceans in 2015 alone. That’s a lot of sippy cups.
One possible way to mitigate the mind-boggling volume of waste: Make it valuable. Scientists envision a future where, instead of dumping more plastic trash into the sea, we convert it all into fuel. Chemists at UC Irvine recently devised a new method to break down polyethylene — the most common form of plastic — into its constituent elements, including diesel.