A highly-promising development out of Japan: a corporation called Blest has developed a home-scale plastic to oil converter. Through the process 1kg of plastic yields 1 litre of oil.
The machine, produced in various sizes, for both industrial and home use, can easily transform a kilogram of plastic waste into a liter of oil, using about 1 kWh of electricity but without emitting CO2 in the process. The machine uses a temperature controlling electric heater instead of flames, processing anything from polyethylene or polystyrene to polypropylene (numbers 2-4).
This video brief about the invention of a plastic-to-oil converting machine went viral and exceeded 3.7 million views on YouTube.
This is evidence that concern over “the plastic problem” is certainly not going away, despite encouraging bans on and decreases in the use of plastic shopping bags.
Many think that this type of recycling is not a solution, but that instead the world should be seriously focused on the first “R” — which is reduce. We should shun single-use plastic (such as your average PET bottle or disposable container) altogether, they argue. The world’s oil resources are diminishing; does technology like this enable our denial of that fact, or is it a hopeful and constructive step in the right direction?
Others have concerns about pollution or toxic residue from the conversion process. Blest tells us that, if the proper materials are fed into the machine (i.e., polyethylene, polystyrene and polypropylene — PP, PE, PS plastics), there is no toxic substance produced and any residue can be disposed of with regular burnable garbage. They also explain that while methane, ethane, propane and butane gasses are released in the process, the machine is equipped with an off-gas filter that disintegrates these gases into water and carbon.
Lastly, commentators from around the world are anxious to know if and where they can purchase a machine. Though the company still mainly produces larger, industrial-use machines, Blest Co. will be more than happy to hear from you. Please contact them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below is the original article, published on April 14, 2009.
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.