This independent study course provides a unique opportunity to research sustainable energy in Aliso Viejo, Orange County and Southern California.

As consumption of plastic continues to grow, there is an increasing demand to find new ways to use plastic waste to generate energy with limited environmental impact.  In Florida, for example, the Department of Environmental Protection (Florida State Government) estimates that 1.35 MTn of plastic waste are disposed of each year. Roughly 60% goes to landfills, 35% is burned up, and only 5% is recycled.
This independent study course will explore the potential benefits of plants that use thermal anaerobic technology to transform plastic waste (mostly from plastic bottles and other types of containers) into synthetic fuel, thus providing an alternative fuel to coal or natural gas. During the semester, we will explore how plants like these might impact the Orange County area. Together we will investigate possible sites and estimate the environmental effects they might have on our community. Students will visit and interview recyclers and waste managers in the area to determine how they currently dispose of plastic and other types of waste. We will also develop a framework to evaluate and analyze consumption practices in a typical Aliso Viejo home. COURSE SCHEDULE

This is a 3-unit independent study course that will meet twice a week. A maximum of 4 students can be enrolled in this course. This independent study course will meet once a week for three hours. The work for this course has been divided in six phases:
1) Bibliographical and online research 2) Drafting a preliminary report based on the analysis of the literature 3) Field trips and interviews to local government and waste management companies 4) A second draft of the report and uploading of relevant materials to the course website 5) Interviews and research of existing plastic-to-oil companies in Florida 6) Proposal to evaluate the potential to implement a plastic-to-oil waste programme in Aliso Viejo and/or surrounding communities in Orange County 7) Final report uploaded to the website ASSIGNMENTS

Students will work as a group in developing a report and a website highlighting the findings of this research. Work on the report will begin the first week of classes. Students will read pertinent literature and upload a weekly report on the relevance of the arguments in the literature in relationship to the central research question of the course. After each field trip, students will also write reports commenting on our conversations with local authorities, agencies, and waste management personnel.

  • Preliminary report (5 pages) 20% of the grade
  • Interviews and field trip reports (6 pages) 25% of the grade
  • Second draft of report (10 pages) 30% of the grade
  • Evaluation for implementation of plastic-to-oil programme (5 pages) 15%
  • Participation 10%

Students will be assessed based upon the quality of their research, the coherency of their written and oral skills, their ability to work in a group, and their skills at developing a cohesive multi-media presentation. Plastic Energy Resources and Articles Please see table of contents