Dow Plans North American Plastic Waste Recovery Facilities
Dow Chemical and Klean Industries are collaborating to build waste recovery facilities throughout North America for recovering energy, chemicals, and oil from nonrecycled waste plastics, using gasification systems such as this one. (Source: Klean Industries)
I am really happy to see this kind of effort happening and the reality of true plastic recovery facilities. Most people don't realize that plastic can only be recycled once and then downcycled...but that it ultimately ends up in a landfill or in the ocean. I am a surfer, so I see the result of the latter on beaches and in the sea all the time. It also ends up choking marine life, which eat plastic bags or rings and end up dying as a result. It is really an important step for a big company like Dow to do something to help not only mitigate the plastic problem but also turn it into something truly reuseable and beneficial. Thanks for covering this, Ann. I will keep my eye on this space.
Great to see a common-sense and economically proven solution in the area of plastic recycling. Hope that companies who invest in this are also given tax incentives to make it a more attractive investment.
Tim, the short answers are "it depends, but they're dealt with" and "Yes." Longer answers to your questions would require a few more articles: check out the links given in this article to the ACC-sponsored study, and to this DN story: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=242808 as well as "Related posts" at the end of this article.
Elizabeth, plastic can also be upcycled--it's not easy to do but a few companies, including SABIC, have figured that out: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=242634&image_number=9 Then there's the recycled bottles that get upcycled into weight-bearing bridge beams: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=237384
Wow, great, I didn't know that! See, even someone as informed as me about this isn't aware of what is happening in the plastic world...I still think finding alternatives to plastic is the way forward, but all of these recyclable and reuseable options for the plastic already out there are good ones for sure.
This is a very interesting development. However, the process description is a little difficult to follow. (This may be because Klean Industry's processes are proprietary).
The article says "most commercial gasification processes [...] don't use oxygen." I don't know much about gasification of plastic waste, but coal gasification definitely does use oxygen. Gasification essentially means reacting carbon (coal -- or, presumably, pyrolized plastic waste) with oxygen and steam, to produce a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen (syngas).
I'm also not quite sure what to make of the statement that "syngas, when mixed with air, can be used with minimal modifications to gasoline or diesel engines." Syngas, as the name implies, is a gas, not a liquid. I think it would take more than just minimal modifications to make an engine (designed to run on liquid fuel) capable of running on a gaseous fuel.
It's possible to produce liquid hydrocarbons from syngas by the Fischer-Tropsch process. Maybe this is what is being referred to, but it involves a lot more than just mixing syngas with air.
Anyway, it's interesting that Dow is investing in this technology, and it will be interesting to see how environmentalists react. I suspect they will be skeptical, since they have opposed waste-to-energy plants in the past. Still, in my opinion, anything that minimizes waste is a good thing.
Hey, I wasn't either--the bridge, in particular, blew the minds of all of us staff and the readers, with few exceptions. That one was a real motivator to me to find other leading-edge technologies in recycled plastics.
Just read that bridge story...yes that is pretty impressive! I am really enjoying your stories about this topic, look forward to more. It's an important space to cover not just technologically, but also ecologically and, on some levels, ethically.
And, what about the burn off from the fuel when it's used? Most of the pollution we produce is from using fuel, in cars, factories, etc. This process is a good step forward but what about the next step?
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