Scientists may have discovered an environmentally friendly way to turn plastic waste into renewable energy.

In a series of lab experiments, researchers in Singapore successfully converted plastic into formic acid — a chemical that can be used to generate electricity in power plants and electric cars.

“We are able to turn plastics, which are of course polluting the oceans, into useful chemicals,” Soo Han Sen, head of the two-year research project at Nanyang Technological University, told AFP.

“We’re hoping to turn this into a fully renewable process that’s carbon neutral.”

To develop the process, the research team created a catalyst from vanadium — a cheap metal often used in steel alloys for vehicles that doesn’t damage the environment.

The catalyst is then dissolved in a solution containing the plastic and exposed to artificial sunlight, breaking down the carbon-carbon bonds inside the plastic and turning the once non-biodegradable material into formic acid.

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