Alternative energy often means the better-known sources like solar, wind power, or biofuels. A new form of alternative fuels recovers energy from post-consumer or post-industrial plastic wastes that cannot be recycled efficiently. Technologies for creating these fuels attempt to solve two big problems: the overabundance of unrecycled plastic in landfills, and the creation of domestic energy sources. Several of these plastics-to-fuel (PTF) conversion processes are on the verge of commercialization in the US.
The waste-to-energy (WTE) industry began by approaching polymer wastes as a problem to be eliminated, but failed to come up with financially feasible methods, Jay Schabel, CEO of PolyFlow, told us. Previously, the only purpose for creating fuels was burning them for heat, but the quality and selling price of those fuels is low. Schabel says:
You can't sort your way to financially sustainable success. With a toothbrush made of different plastics, for example, the materials you can recover can never justify the effort it takes to sort them. So if a technology had a high cost of sorting on the front end, and produced a product with a cheap selling price, it couldn't survive.
Common household items made of mixed plastics, whether clean or contaminated, can serve as a feedstock for PolyFlow's pyrolysis-based plastics-to-fuel conversion process. (Source: PolyFlow)
Plastics-to-fuel energy recovery methods offer a different approach by creating technologies that can become profitable. These technologies are aimed at the non-recycled plastics (NRPs) that would otherwise go into landfills, since the highest-BTU waste stream available is polymer.
In conventional WTE plants, municipal solid waste (MSW) is burned and the heat is used to produce steam in a closed-loop process, Jeff Wooster, global sustainability leader for Dow Performance Plastics, told us. That steam either produces process heat for operations like paper mills or utilities, or it's converted to electricity. This produces lots of energy from plastic and a fair amount from paper and wood, but very little energy from other sources.
WTE processes are the least efficient for plastic, said Greg Wilkinson, past president of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association. "Recovered fuel is more selective. Here, you take some components of the waste stream and turn them into fuel for narrower uses."
Great article Ann. Especially all the numbers and links to explore really help.
This tech should be a great money maker for equipment suppliers and small business using it to make fuel, thus money. The price of gasoline, diesel will be $10-11/gal in just 5 yrs in today's $ because of 4B new oil users.
Anyone know what plastic make what and exactly what is the problem with PET and about the 50% like it?
I'd like to do a Plastics to fuel unit just for kicks plus I might need one in the future. My EV's are fine for transport only needing fuel for long trips.
I'm amazed no comments about a tech that can about solve the plastics waste, pollution problem while helping solve others like fuel security. This is really important tech in so many ways making 50k jobs, helping energy security and nicely improving the quality of life, especially that in the water but ours too.
For those interested, the 4R Sustainability research report mentioned in the article can be found here: http://plastics.americanchemistry.com/Plastics-to-Oil
A more recent study, also funded by the ACC, is an environmental and economic analysis of four plastics-to-energy conversion technologies: pyrolysis, gasification, plasma arc, and anaerobic digestion. That one can be found here: http://plastics.americanchemistry.com/Sustainability-Recycling/Energy-Recovery/Environmental-and-Economic-Analysis-of-Emerging-Plastics-Conversion-Technologies.pdf
A recent report sponsored by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) focuses on emerging gasification technologies for converting waste into energy and fuel on a large scale and saving it from the landfill. Some of that waste includes non-recycled plastic.
Capping a 30-year quest, GE Aviation has broken ground on the first high-volume factory for producing commercial jet engine components from ceramic matrix composites. The plant will produce high-pressure turbine shrouds for the LEAP Turbofan engine.
Seismic shifts in 3D printing materials include an optimization method that reduces the material needed to print an object by 85 percent, research designed to create new, stronger materials, and a new ASTM standard for their mechanical properties.
A recent study finds that 3D printing is both cheaper and greener than traditional factory-based mass manufacturing and distribution. At least, it's true for making consumer plastic products on open-source, low-cost RepRap printers.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.