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plastic to oil

 
Posts: 488
Location: Foothills north of L.A., zone 9ish mediterranean
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cool little device, wonder how much $?
http://vimeo.com/4129407
 
pollinator
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yukkuri_kame wrote:wonder how much $?



Hm...maybe twenty grand? Not everything needs to be built in that style, though. I'm sure a bright tinkerer could put together something that works similarly for a few hundred.

I think that burying plastic is usually a better option than burning it, and recycling a better option still. Burning plastic in engines is a better option than burning it in home incinerators, or letting it blow out to sea.  It's really complicated, but I think there are cases where this is the right thing to do.

The part I really agreed with was when he talked about outreach, about making the embodied energy apparent to people and how dramatically this can transform their behavior.

I think I saw a kid put something made of vinyl into his machine, which was a little scary: chlorinated hydrocarbons at high temperature are usually bad news.

Neat video. Thanks!
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
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http://ourworld.unu.edu/en/plastic-to-oil-fantastic/

Plastic to oil fantastic
by Carol Smith on April 14, 2009
Keywords: incineration, mottainai, plastic, recycling, waste management
We are all well aware of plastic’s “rap-sheet.” It has been found guilty on many counts, including the way its production and disposal raises resource issues and lets loose extremely negative environmental impacts.

Typically made from petroleum, it is estimated that 7% of the world’s annual oil production is used to produce and manufacture plastic. That is more than the oil consumed by the entire African continent.
Plastic’s carbon footprint includes landfilling and incineration, since sadly, its recycle rate is dismally low around the globe.
Plastic trash is also polluting our oceans and washing up on beaches around the world. Tons of plastic from the US and Japan are floating in the Pacific Ocean, killing mammals and birds. Perhaps this tragedy is best captured in the TED presentation by Capt. Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation.
Using less, or use it better?
Thankfully, there are those who fully appreciate that plastic has a higher energy value than anything else commonly found in the waste stream. A Japanese company called Blest created a small, very safe and easy to use machine that can convert several types of plastic back into oil.
Though Japan has much improved its “effective utilization” rate over the years to 72% in 2006, that leaves 28% of plastic to be buried in landfills or burned. According to Plastic Waste Management Institute data, “effective utilization” includes not just the 20% that is actually recycled, but also 52% that is being incinerated for “energy recovery” purposes, i.e., generating heat or electric power.
“If we burn the plastic, we generate toxins and a large amount of CO2. If we convert it into oil, we save CO2 and at the same time increase people’s awareness about the value of plastic garbage,” says Akinori Ito, CEO of Blest.
Blest’s conversion technology is very safe because it uses a temperature controlling electric heater rather than flame. The machines are able to process polyethylene, polystyrene and polypropylene (numbers 2-4) but not PET bottles (number 1). The result is a crude gas that can fuel things like generators or stoves and, when refined, can even be pumped into a car, a boat or motorbike. One kilogram of plastic produces almost one liter of oil. To convert that amount takes about 1 kilowatt of electricity, which is approximately ¥20 or 20 cents’ worth.
The company makes the machines in various sizes and has 60 in place at farms, fisheries and small factories in Japan and several abroad.
“To make a machine that anyone can use is my dream,” Ito says. “The home is the oil field of the future.”
Perhaps that statement is not as crazy as it sounds, since the makeup of Japanese household waste has been found to contain over 30 % plastic, most of it from packaging.

Sources: Kohei Watanabe, Reference material provided for the talk
“Waste and Sustainable Consumption”, Capability and Sustainability Centre,
St Edmund’s College Cambridge, March 2005; Association of Regional Planners
and Architects, Detailed Sorting and Measuring of Household Waste, Kyoto 1998.
Continually honing their technology, the company is now able to sell the machines for less than before, and Ito hopes to achieve a product “that any one can buy.” Currently the smallest version, shown in the videobrief, costs ¥950,000 (US $9,500).

 
                        
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The process is called "thermal depolymerization".  Polymers are long chains of hydrocarbons.  Plastics are a form of polymers.  By proper treatment, the polymer bonds can be broken down and oil retrieved from the process:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_depolymerization

This process will also produce "byproducts" of metals and other chemicals which may or may not be healthy.  Note that the machine being described will convert types 2 through 4, but not 1.  That's because burning or otherwise combining types 1 and 2 with heat will produce dioxins.

Still, it would be kinda nice to have one of those around, if only as a "proof of concept"; maybe convince the city to buy one to produce gas for its cars.
 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
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certainly it is no solution to the energy problem... with 7% of oil supply going into plastics, and lets optimistically imagine half of that gets recycled to oil then that has eased oil supply by 3.5%.  Nothing to sneeze at, but not a game changer either.  The real advantage here is that it is a solution to the waste stream problem, that happens to produce a usable product.   
 
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