Non-recycled plastics (NRPs), which make up 12.4 percent of municipal solid waste (MSW), have high value as a feedstock for conversion to energy or fuel because of their potentially significant heating value. (Source: Gershman, Brickner & Bratton/US EPA)
Ann, this was really interesting. The other product of the process, shown in the last slide, is ash. Did your sources say anything about it, such as what volume / weight percentage is it compared to the original feedstock, or if the ash has a use, its toxicity?
TJ searching the PDF of the report on "ash" produced these statements: "The combustion process and cleaning of the gases produce fly and bottom ash, further processed to remove metals for recycling. The ash can be used as alternative daily cover at landfills or as construction aggregate." There's also some further discussion of how ash is created and handled within different up-/down-cross-draft gasification systems.
I agree, Rob, and Ann has been on top of this. I really like to see the efforts around re-use of material, especially plastic, that would otherwise just become landfill or ocean pollution. If this material was created and used then it makes sense that it can be deconstructed and reused. Thanks for keeping a close eye on these efforts.
Thanks Elizabeth and Rob. This is an area that interests me a lot, because it hits so many different targets: getting non-recycled plastic out of the environment, using waste creatively, re-using some already produced and very expensively-produced energy sources, and making non-petroleum-derived fuel.
This seems like a very good solution to the problem of plastic but any idea about what is approximate cost of setting up a gasification system and the running cost? It can be a key factor in determining the feasibility of this process?
Yes everything has a cost and these days' costs matter more than any other days. But when it comes to west management future of the earth for the sake of living is matter than costs. So its need to have the government or the nun-profit making organizations involvement in these projects.
Elizabeth, I am concerned about the tons of plastic and other wastes being discharged at sea instead of used for energy. I wonder if a gasification plant could be constructed aboard cruise ships, providing fuel energy as well as reducing the overboard waste.
I really wonder about the economics of turning plastics into gasoline. Of course it could be done but it may be a waste of money, and there may be other far less expensive uses and conversions. The problem is that just because something can be done is no indication that it is a good choice. Just look at the alcohol from corn, which consumes more energy than the alcohol can deliver, in addition to bidding up the price of food corn. We can make gasoline from newspaper, but who wants to pay $45 per gallon for it? That is my point.
First you just need to heat up 50% of plastics into a gas which then is taken off in temp controlled seperators not unlike moonshine. Just how difficult is that?
Next they in many cases pay you to take it too.
Ethanol certianly doesn't take more energy than it uses. That was a very well done myth propganda by big oil. If you calculate gasoline the same way it takes 4x's as much energy/gal to produce for instance.
Let's not forget the dried mash is a far better human, animal food than the corn is as far higher in much higher quality protein, thus doesn't take food , just makes it better. Everything it still there but the starch. Next you get all the corn oil plus the value of the stalks, cobs, etc. So many byproducts the feedstock is nearly free from their sales in a modern ethanol plant.
Nor in the 15 yrs ago your rigged 'data' comes from, Ethanol plants now use far less energy as does growing the corn crop.
Facts are it makes many thousands of US jobs instead of them going to oil dictators, terrorists and is responsable for a 10% drop in US oil prices by cutting imports 20%.
Let's try to go a little deeper than believing the propaganda by big oil.
I have no dog in this fight as I drive EV's at a fraction of a similar gasoline/ethanol vehicle total costs.
Heat for evaporating plastics needs to be controlled, and controlled heat is expensive. The equipment to do it and satisfy the EPA is expensive as well.
It must be nice to be able to make up facts to back up opinions.
Ethanol is a lousy fuel for gasoline engines. It may work, sort of, but it also allows the addition of water to the gas, and watered gas is less efficient and delivers a lot less power for my money. Ethanol in gas is not my choice, but the liberals ram it to us without any options. If it is so very good for us, as you claim, then make it an option. If people want it they will choose it. If they don't want it then they won't choose it. And tell us the truth about who bribed congress into mandating it, because nobody else wanted it.
Care to mention why controlled heat is expensive? Just doesn't make sense as so easy to do in so many ways. Ever hear of a thermostat?. Insulation, radiator? Are they very expensive?
Having a no waste/emissions to speak of EPA wise as it would be a closed sysytem. Sorry but it looks like you are making up stuff.
Again I don't think racers would use a terrible fuel would they? Fact is you can get more power from ethanol than gasoline with lower emissions as ethanol burns much cooler so the compression, eff starts getting into diesel territory, No? And higher compression is more eff, no? Again you are making stuff up. Why?
Personally I want 95% ethanol and 5% water as a fuel, lower energy to make, and burns clean and cool. You don't know that?
I guess you don't understand the propaganda of lies put out by big oil against both ethanol and EV's as biofuels and EV's scare them to death. And they are right to be worried as ethanol has already cut deeply into their profits both replacing oil and cutting the price oil can get.
Myself I've never seen a car with an ethanol caused problems since the first couple yrs of older ones and even then was rare as all US car since 73? are required to use E10. The way people talk how bad it is yet where are all the problems in US cars?
There really isn't much reason all car engine shouldn't burn any combo of ethanol, methanol, NGL, etc. They already are made by GM, Ford, etc in Brazil, etc.
Whether you like it or not in 20 yrs oil will be too expensive to burn and coal, NG in 30 yrs. Isn't it the time to switch to sustainable fuels? Actually it'll happen no matter what. The only question is if we do it right or badly like you seem to want.
Again I drive my EV's at 25% of a gas version total costs. I'd like near pure ethanol for the range extending generator the few times it's needed.
Do you research anything you post? Can you think critically? From your posts it doesn't show.
Apparently your mind is made up and no longer have the ability to learn, think critically.
Ethanol and 5% water is much cheaper as that last 5% of water is energy intensive. No? Maybe you should ask questions that keep putting up such misinformation.
Actually alcohol fire to a large degree are worse as you can't see the flames. No? Maybe you should read up on ethanol racing as you post shows just how wrong your knowledge is as it's almost always been used to increase performance. No?
Good luck, you'll need it William. Hard to see you as a designer or engineer as so often wrong on the things you post time and time again. Maybe do some research before posting would be smart. google is your friend, use it.
William, these are non-recycled/non-recyclable plastics, often mixed with other waste, meaning there isn't anything else that can be done with them except landfill. All other avenues have been exhausted. Meanwhile, they still contain a lot of energy that can be extracted by turning them into fuel. The report makes this clear.
Ann, of course you are correct. I was thinking about a project that I did for another organization.
I do wonder about the gassification of some of those thermoset plastics used in electronic assemblies, though. Some of them don't even seem to burn very much when exposed to a constant electrical arc. But they are usually a very small part of the waste stream, I suppose, so the effect is probably minimal. Of course, the catagory of "non-recyclable plastics" is quite broad, and so it probably includes a lot of other types, including those that are just too dirty to recycle.
It would be interesting to see what the results are when this project gets going 100%. Maybe you could give us another report on it then.
William, this is complex and it can all get pretty confusing: there are multiple processes, many quite different from each other, for handling a given waste stream, and then there are multiple kinds of waste streams, some of which can be combined for handling by certain processes. One type of non-recycled plastics is plastics contaminated with various wastes such as food or dirt. Another is products made of multiple types of plastic, such as a toothbrush. My point is, the type of wastes being accepted at a given facility is a well-known entity at this stage. A given material either can or can't be used in a given conversion process.
This report is on more than one company using more than one type of gasification, rather than a single project. I also discovered something in the report itself that may be confusing to readers. Details of each company and what it's doing are given in an Appendix starting on page 45, but for some reason that Appendix isn't listed in the Table of Contents.
William, I think you're right, but for larger reasons than just the materials sorting issues. Reports such as this one show that the technology is pretty well developed. Getting it put into place is another thing altogether.
notarboca, I'm extremely concerned about plastic in the ocean, too. Gasification systems may or may not be made small enough to fit on a boat, but pyrolysis systems sure can be. We wrote about them here http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=269499 The Clean Oceans Project (TCOP) is working with at least one pyrolysis system maker to develop a shipboard plastic-to-fuel conversion system that would provide fuel for TCOP's collection vessels out of collected plastic waste, eliminating the need to return to shore to dispose of that waste: http://thecleanoceansproject.com/?page_id=18
That is a very succinct way of putting what all of these efforts to reuse waste, particularly plastic waste, can help do for the world, a.saji. Couldn't agree with you more! To make less garbage in the first place (therefore having less waste to reuse) also is a very good thing.
far911, what you describe is the way things used to be done, but aren't anymore since they're not allowed to by law, which the EPA enforces. At least in the US, as well as Europe and Canada, gasification and other processes like pyrolysis heat waste to high temperatures--they don't burn it. And nowadays they do so in entirely closed systems. Today, even mass burn and other processes that do use combustion take place in entirely closed systems, so nothing gets into the atmosphere. These processes are described in the report.
I agree with you Ann that gasification has a lot of potential in integrated waste management in the community. This potential can be fully harnessed if the IWM systems are adopted at the municipal level. This will help many municipalities cure 2 of their biggest headaches at the same time; the disposal of municipal solid waste and the improvement of livelihoods.
AnandY, I think you've nailed it: the need for a complete infrastructure and distribution system, just as is required for any energy source, means that implementation at the municipal level is essential. Regarding costs, those are discussed in the report.
Following up on this thread, I think it would have been nice if you had included some more details about the cost implications of implementing gasification projects, especially at the municipal level under IWM systems. Even though such a venture is definitely cost efficient in the long run, am not so sure about its short term benefits.
Excellent post Ann. One of the most fascinating projects I have ever had was providing design options that would produce syngas from taco production in a factory in Atlanta, Georgia. (Don't laugh--it really happened.) The company produced about 450,000 taco shells per day but had roughly 50,000 "off-quality", deformed shells. My job was to take these unusable shells, combine them with a catalyst, burn them and provide syngas that would run generators; thereby lessening electricity usage in the factory itself. The design effort lasted about three (3) months. This type of activity is happening in just about every corner of our country and I certainly applaud those efforts at turning waste into usable synthetic fuels. It's amazing how much methane is available when burning waste in controlled environments. This is another project I had some years ago.
That's pretty funny, bobjengr, thanks for the taco-shell story. Making fuel from various types of farm waste and food waste is not a new idea. There's sure a lot of methane and potential methane to go around. And when it comes to agricultural animal waste, these efforts are sorely needed.
How 3D printing fits into the digital thread, and the relationship between its uses for prototyping and for manufacturing, was the subject of a talk by Proto Labs' Rich Baker at last week's Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis.
How can automakers, aerospace contractors, and other OEMs get new metal alloys that are stronger, harder, and can survive ever higher temperatures? One way is to redesign their crystalline structures at the nanoscale and microscale.
Although a lot of the excitement about 3D printing and additive manufacturing surrounds its ability to make end-products and functional prototypes, some often ignored applications are the big improvements that can come by using it for tooling, jigs, and fixtures.
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