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Engineering Materials

Study: Plastics, Garbage Fuel Texas Cement Kiln

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Beth Stackpole
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Good for the environment, but what about safety?
Beth Stackpole   8/9/2012 10:34:14 AM
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Definitely an interesting idea to create fuel from non-recycled plastics. But while there are obvious energy benefits, what about the emissions and environmental/human safety factor? I, for one, am not a fan of breathing in what would seem to be plastic residue.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Good for the environment, but what about safety?
Rob Spiegel   8/9/2012 11:53:42 AM
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Interesting story, Ann. I agree with Beth about not wanting to breathe in plastic residue, but it sounds the emissions are cleaner than coal, which we're already breathing in.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Good for the environment, but what about safety?
Ann R. Thryft   8/9/2012 12:02:35 PM
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Beth, SRF is created by compression, not by burning. The emissions discussed here are from the normal operation of the cement kiln, not from creating the fuel. Cement kiln emissions were lower using this fuel than using coal.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Good for the environment, but what about safety?
Beth Stackpole   8/9/2012 1:20:36 PM
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Thanks for clarifying Ann. That makes much more sense, and with the comparison to being cleaner than coal burning, sounds like this could have a bright future.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Good for the environment, but what about safety?
Ann R. Thryft   8/9/2012 1:52:05 PM
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The idea is to use a resource that's being wasted and would otherwise end up producing C02, plus get a cleaner-burning fuel. SRF is more common in Europe and other countries, but less so in the US, as we discuss here
http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=242808

NadineJ
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ready for the masses?
NadineJ   8/9/2012 6:05:06 PM
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Nice article.  This sounds similar to what JBI Inc does in Canada.  There's been a lot of research and breakthroughs in this but very little implementation.

What's preventing this from getting out into the market?  Or, at least used/purchased by governments or large corporations who can be innovators.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: ready for the masses?
Ann R. Thryft   8/10/2012 12:08:03 PM
Thanks, Nadine. This is a different type of fuel than JBI makes. It's a solid recovered fuel (SRF) that mixes plastic and other waste, mostly paper-based, via compression into pellets that can be burned. As we reported here
http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=242808
JBI does something quite different: plastics to fuel (PTF) using pyrolysis (thermochemical, not burning), which creates fuel oil out of plastics via chemical, not mechanical, processes. Regarding commercialization, I don't think anything in particular is keeping these technologies from the market. They've all been in R&D for awhile and are in process of being scaled up. North America is considerably behind Europe in this field, partly because (I've been told) we've had more room for landfills so less motivation.

NadineJ
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Re: ready for the masses?
NadineJ   8/10/2012 12:42:10 PM
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Thanks for the clarification on the different processes Ann.  I was referring to the fact that both use post-consumer trash or recyclables to make fuel.  I should have been clearer. 

How is Europe ahead of North America using this?  I haven't heard of any large-scale use of this type of fuel.

Most new or expanded landfills in the US are placed in extremely poor communities.  I don't think we have the space.  I think it's that marginalized areas are easily manipulated here.  It's hard to focus on protecting the environment when the kids are hungry.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: ready for the masses?
Ann R. Thryft   8/10/2012 12:57:15 PM
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Nadine, to clarify, these do not use recyclables, but items that can't be recycled. To answer your question, during the reporting for this feature article on fuels from plastic: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=242808 I learned from industry experts that solid recovery fuel (SRF) and/or refuse derived fuel (RDF) processes, which mix paper with plastic, are more common in Europe, but not yet so in North America. I also learned that, in general, because there's much less landfill space--due to much smaller geography and higher population density per square mile--Europe is farther along in R&D and also deployment of turning plastics into fuel, meaning prevalence, not scale of deployment.

barnaclebill
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Carbon emissions
barnaclebill   8/10/2012 2:24:36 PM
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The carbon emissons are only 1.5 % ?  that is pitiful.   This is probably within experimental error.  why bother with this approach?   Is SO2 that big an issue to scrub?   I suggest it is misleading to take huge landfill numbers and mulitply by some small possible not even real % and claim that recovering energy from SRF s is equal to 700,000 homes /yr.  

akwaman
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Re: Carbon emissions
akwaman   9/6/2012 10:01:59 AM
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The carbon emission savings are small, but don't miss the real point.  From what I understand, isn't the real goal of using these unrecyclable materials to keep it out of landfills, and therefore reducing the need for so many landfills?  We do get complacent in this country about landfills, because we do a good job of hiding them.  Problem is that we are running out of places to hide them, and nobody wants a landfill in their back yard.  A good point was made that in Europe, they are more concious of the issue of landfills, because they don't have as many places to hide them, and the problem is more in the public eye.  It seems like a win-win-win situation.  How could you argue with a system that reduces the number of mountains that we have to blow the top off of, reduces the landfill waste, reduces large amounts of SO2 (less scrubbing necessary), and saves a little of Carbon emissions as a bonus.  Without some data, it seems moot to argue about the 700,000 homes/year, so it might be 500,000 or 800,000 who really cares, let's not miss the point, which is not carbon sequestering.

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