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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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, 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.
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.
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