Clean Oceans

Clean Oceans Plastic Recovery

Water Security


Plastic-to-fuel projects are beginning to gain traction in the energy industry, with rising awareness of the prolific environmental damage caused by single-use plastics and people’s insufficient recycling habits leading researchers to turn to alternative recycling or depolymerization methods for our mounting plastic output. An important first step in reclaiming this material is the ability to sort and identify which plastics are accumulating where and in what quantities. 

An interdisciplinary team of UCSC undergraduates are working with Clean Oceans International (COI) to provide practical solutions to plastic pollution. In collaboration with researchers in UCSC's chemistry department, the plastics characterization group is making strides by validating low-teach plastics characterization techniques that can be used in the field (e.g. scratch tests with copper wire, the University of Cambridge protocols) while using IR imaging to confirm results in the lab. Their aim is to integrate low-tech plastic identification tests into beach clean-ups or waste assessment efforts to not only determine the identity of unknown plastics collected, but this project also can help track material stockpiles and better understand which discarded plastics are the most viable feedstock candidates. 


Project Outcomes: We will complete two site evaluations (urban and remote) to verify the Cambridge protocol's ability to identify plastics and provide quantitative and economic data on UC Recycling inventory. Our team will make recommendations for plastic types to be included in P2F process. To achieve these goals, our team will complete the following project objectives:

  • Collect 3 samples to establish volume and economic values of UCSC recycling inventory
  • Determine types & quantity of plastic intake
  • Replicate and improve existing ways of characterizing plastics such as those included in the Cambridge protocol published by the University of Cambridge
  • Confirm results using established lab techniques
  • Create a catalogue for identifying plastics.

Archive:  The P2F evaluation group, working closely with Clean Oceans, is following guidelines in the “Plastic to Fuel Project Developers Guide” prepared by the Oceans Recovery Alliance, to collect data and evaluate two proposed host sites for plastic-to-fuel conversion technology invented by Blest. This team's goals are to:

  • Analyze output of P2F machine.
  • Interview representatives of One People One Reef to complete case study of Ulithi Atoll
  • Outreach to municipalities that receive plastic waste and coastal waste clean up
  • Review plastic handling at facility
  • Conduct cost / profit analysis for implementation of technology at facility.

Find out more at COI website