Converting Waste to Oil

Posted by Chuck Harrell on Jan 25, 2016 10:39:00 AM

One of the greatest environmental problems for the planet is our continuous use of plastic.  Not only is it made from oil, but it takes a very long time to break down.  In fact, never entirely doing so.  So far, modern recycling concentrates on efforts to reuse plastic for more plastic but in many parts of the world, more plastic isn't what's needed.   What they need is gasoline, fuel for their homes and for their vehicles.

Going through trials at the moment is a process called thermal depolymerization.  This is the process of sorting polymers into petroleum.    Its a great advantage over other types of recycling because it can use any form of polymer including the biopolymers in feathers.   This image from Discover show how much oil 100 pounds of waste will produce.


To test this system, a pilot plant in Cathage, Missouri, was built to recycle turkey waste.  It was first reported in 2003 on Discover.   Although the plant has stopped using turkey offal to make fuel, it does take other forms of waste materials.

But, that's on a commercial scale.  On a much smaller scale, a Japanese company, Blest, has developed a small table top device which can take any plastic and make it oil, which can then be processed further to make fuel, which can be used in motorbikes or cars.   

As we recognize that we're unlikely to move away from using oil for the foreseeable future, making the use of the things that we have is one possible solution to creating a greener world and if small systems can be used in communities which have a lot of plastic but expensive fuel, it could be worth the investment.

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