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Plastic to Fuel Recycling Gaining Traction in the US

May 3rd, 2011 · No Comments

A study by the American Chemistry Council found out that the plastic to fuel recycling gaining traction in the US.

“People begin to see that this is not garbage, this plastic waste, this bottle cap, the lunch container is oil. So when a child understands this, the garbage gets cleaned up. People don’t know that the garbage is oil, that’s why they’re throwing it away. If they know it becomes oil, then they collect it. It’s an oil field. A plastic oil field.”

Akinori Ito of Blest Corporation

In 2009, we wrote about the introduction into the U.S. of plastic to fuel recycling technology. Today, barely two years later, a study by the American Chemistry Council found out that the plastic to fuel recycling sector is getting ready to go commercial in the U.S.

Plastic to fuel recycling is not a new technology, by any means. As a matter of fact, this technology has already been implemented in a commercial scale in certain parts of Asia (Japan and South Korea) and Europe (Germany).

According to the report, more than 4 billion pounds of plastic have been recycled in the US in 2009. The study demonstrates that the US has the capacity to recycle plastics, including plastic to fuel (FTP) technology.

Plastic is a ubiquitous feature of modern life. While it has allowed for convenience in so many aspects of our lives, it has also proved to be one of the most persistent and widespread pollutants in the planet today. We heard about the Pacific Garbage Patch and the Atlantic plastic gyre. As it turned out, every ocean and sea on he planet today has its own version of the plastic gyre where plastic particles break up and cover a wide area of the ocean surface, mistaken for food by the fish and wildlife in these areas.

In Japan, where resources are scarce and there’s little room available for them to build the kind of landfills we have in the US, people are forced to recycle. Companies like Blest Corporation have developed this technology and made it portable and easy to be deployed anywhere.

Quoting scientists at Columbia University, Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council remarked:

“If the United States were to recover the energy from our non-recycled plastics, this material could be converted into enough energy to fuel the equivalent of six million cars annually.”

In North America, companies like Envion, Climax Global Technology, and Agilyx have their own pilot programs. So far, however, no industrial scale plants have been established here although there are ongoing talks in the state and local levels where companies are trying to see favorable financial incentives for building their plants. According to the study:

“Many of the technology manufacturers in North America that have been operating pilot-scale facilities are hopeful that they will be able to secure investment for a commercial-scale facility in the next two or three years, if not sooner.”

With the millions of tons of plastic waste rotting in our landfills, cluttering our city streets, and polluting the oceans, there’s enough material for this venture to become sustainable and we hope that it will catch up in the US soon.

Read: American Chemistry Council report (PDF)

Tags: Plastic Recycling