A material recovery facility or material reclamation facility (MRF) is a specialized plant that receives and separates recyclable materials from a waste stream. The plant configuration for a WTE project starts with a MRF. By removing the material that can be recycled (i.e. metals and glass) along with other inert components (i.e. sand and dirt), the raw municipal solid waste (MSW) is processed into refuse derived fuel (RDF) pellets. Using RDF instead of raw MSW makes our energy projects more efficient because we do not heat up the “extra” inert materials that are only to be rejected with the ash. There are two major types of MRF plants, the Clean MRF and the Dirty MRF.

A Clean MRF accepts commingled recyclable materials that have already been separated at the source from municipal solid waste generated by either residential or commercial sources. There are a variety of clean MRF configurations with the most common being single stream, where all the mixed recyclable material is processed through the same series of separation steps. An alternative configuration is a dual stream MRF, where source-separated recyclables are processed through different steps depending on the type of materials delivered (i.e. metals or plastics). Once the desired recyclable (and inert) materials have been separated, the remaining materials are shredded and densified to use as RDF for our WTE projects.

A Dirty MRF accepts a mixed solid waste stream and then proceeds to separate out designated recyclable materials through a combination of manual and mechanical sorting. The sorted recyclable materials may undergo further processing required to meet technical specifications established by end-markets users, while the balance of the mixed waste stream is shredded and densified and then used as RDF to power our conversion technology.
The Large, The Small, The Clean And The Dirty: Equipping MRFs

Erik E. Colville and Nancy J. McFeron

A materials recovery facility, or MRF, by any other name, would still be either clean or dirty. Of course, sorting recyclables is a dirty business, but the terms «clean» and «dirty» refer to the method of collection while the type of MRF is determined by a community’s needs.

Clean MRFs handle commingled or pre-separated recyclables from curbside collection programs, drop-off sites or satellite recycling centers. Dirty MRFs process recyclables from a stream of raw solid waste and are sometimes used in areas with no curbside programs or in communities that are not interested in recycling. Selecting facility size, configuration and equipment differs greatly for the two basic types of MRFs, and it’s important that the consultant recognizes these differences when designing a MRF.

A small, clean MRF processes less than 50 tons per day of recyclables and a large facility processes 200 to 300 tons per day. A small, dirty MRF processes less than 200 tons per day of mixed municipal solid waste and a large facility processes more than 700 tons per day.

More than 90 percent of the material entering a clean MRF is processed and made ready for sale. A dirty MRF recovers between five and 45 percent of the incoming material as recyclables, then the remainder is landfilled or otherwise disposed. Because the material entering a clean MRF typically weighs 50 to 100 pounds per cubic yard and the material entering a dirty MRF weighs about 350 pounds per cubic yard, MRF designs vary significantly.

To read the rest of this article go to:

Jordan Lindsey Energy for Sustainability, John Randolph/Gilbert Masters

Energy for Sustainability is both thematic in the emphasis on sustainability, which is defined as, “…patterns of economic, environmental, and social progress that meet the needs of the present day without reducing the capacity to meet future needs”(3). This definition is applied to sustainable energy by specifying patterns of energy production and the need for energy with the least economic, environmental, and social costs all the while maintaining the capacity to meet future needs. The book focuses on the current problems with global sustainability in the contexts of energy.
            The book elaborates on the issues with achieving energy sustainability, simplifying it into three major components: oil, carbon, and expanding global demand. Oil still provides 37% of the world’s total energy use, and the Earth’s oil reserves are continuing to be depleted. Fossil fuels provide 86% of our energy and are continuing to increase carbon emissions that change the global climate. The ever-present and expanding global demand is also a major hindrance to global energy sustainability. Some complicating factors listed include society’s slow progress in using alternative energy, it is difficult to bring about change because of social norms, vested interest, etc., and time to prevent detrimental consequences is very short. In order to fix these issues the reading proposes that we improve energy efficiency and reduce demand growth, replace oil with alternative energies with less influence on the economy and environment, and finally to increase carbon-free energy sources such as fossil fuels.   
            Some of the means to achieve these goals are also suggested, “Sustainable energy technologies, including efficient production and use, renewable energy systems, and selected clean and safe fossil fuel and nuclear technologies”(27). The section also emphasizes the need for consumer and community choice for efficient and sustainable technologies, as well as public policies to help develop and exercise sustainable technologies.

            Plastic pyrolysis is a solution with an easily accessible fuel source, as well as the ability to create a more sustainable waste and recycling process. Although plastic pyrolysis will not help with the sustainable issue of carbon emissions, it would be a great help in facilitating sustainable energy technologies.  

Amount of Petroleum used to make plastic products in a year


How much oil is used to make plastic?

In the United States, plastics are not made from crude oil. They are manufactured from petroleum products, which include liquid petroleum gases (LPG) and natural gas liquids (NGL), and natural gas. LPG are by-products of petroleum refining and natural gas processing, and NGL are removed from natural gas before it enters transmission pipelines. These fuels are used as feedstocks to make the plastic and as fuels in the manufacturing process.

In 20101, about 191 million barrels of LPG and NGL were used in the United States to make plastic products in the plastic materials and resins industry, which was equal to about 2.7% of total U.S. petroleum consumption. Of those 191 million barrels, 190 million barrels were used as feedstock and 1 million barrels were consumed as fuel to manufacture these products.

In addition to LPG and NGL, about 412 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of natural gas were used to make plastic materials and resins in 2010. This was equal to about 1.7% of total U.S. natural gas consumption. Of the 412 Bcf of natural gas,13 Bcf were used as feedstock, and 399 Bcf were consumed as fuel to manufacture these products.

In addition to petroleum products and natural gas, about 65 billion kilowatthours of electricity were used to manufacture plastics in 2010, equal to about 1.7% of total U.S. electricity consumption.

EIA does not have data on the quantity of plastic materials and resins produced in the United States or on the origin of all the plastic products used in the United States. EIA does not have similar data for other countries.

William Cox: Principles of renewable energy: Chapter 1 by John Twidell and Tony Weir (Summary)

I. Purpose is to analyze the full range of renewable energy supplies available for modern economies.

a. Chosen sources – wind, water, biomass, solar, and waste

b. Local and global application and practicality of energy supply

II. Defining Renewable Energy and Non-Renewable Energy

1. Renewable, Sustainable, or Green Energy: ‘“Energy Obtained from natural and persistent flows of energy occurring in the immediate environment”’

2. Non-renewable, finite, or Brown energy: ‘“Energy obtained from static stores of energy that remain underground unless released by human interaction”’

3. Where we stand: These definitions suggest that the Plastic to Diesel Plant we are looking at implementing is neither a Renewable nor Non-Renewable energy. At the stage it is transferred into diesel it is not taken from underground (although it is a petroleum product.) It is also does not occur in the immediate environment (although it is quite persistent.) This leaves us in an interesting middle ground. It is important to recognize because this plant may not only help dispose of plastic but also create a stepping stone towards renewable energy sources in the future.

III. Important questions to ask

1. How much energy is available in the immediate environment – what is the resource?

a. For our purposes it is plastics. There are only certain types of plastics that can be used. The plastic already in the landfill may or may not be a cost effective source, so it may not be an option in the start.

– Currently plastic production is huge, so there is a lot of plastic that must be disposed of and landfill space is limited.

2. For what purpose can this energy be used – what is the end-use?

a. No energy source is cheap or occurs without some form of environmental disruption.

– It is important use the energy in the most efficient way possible i.e. natural gas for transportation, nuclear for industrial production, ect.

b. Money spent on energy conservation and improvements in end-use efficiency result in long term benefits than money spent on increased generation and supply capacity

3. What is the environmental impact of technology- is it sustainable?

a. Relates to social responsibility and sustainable development (continued in chapter 17, should look into that)

b. What is the cost of the energy – is it cost-effective?

§ Institutional factor that depends on consumers and becomes a major criterion for commercial installations.

§ The cost effectiveness of a power source depends on distinctive scientific principles of renewable energy like efficiency. This can be broken down into different criteria

· Locally available source – (pre-present)

– It is more cost effective for renewable energy to be produced locally in a dispersed fashion rather than being centralized. Electricity from finite sources like fossil fuels are more efficiently generated at a large factory and then allotted outwardly. Electricity from renewable sources like wind or solar are more efficiently produced and allotted locally, therefore the energy loss during conversion and transportation is much less, and it is more cost effective.

· Dynamic characteristics of energy – when does is peak, or does it?

· Quality of supply – Proportion of the energy source that can be converted to mechanical work.

IV. Social Implications

1. Populations have grown in response to the employment opportunities offered in areas of industry and commerce (industrial revolution.) The implementation of renewable energy would be decentralized and dispersed into many different areas. It would lead to many changes in lifestyle, as new jobs would open up in different areas (these new establishments would be able to support up to 500 people per square kilometer.) This could relive population stress on metropolitan and urban areas.

Home-Scale Conversion of Plastics to Oil


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.

Here on Our World, on the video’s YouTube page and those of re-posters too, as well as on the hot Reddit Science link, the topic has generated much interest and debate amongst commenters.

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 info@blest.co.jp.

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.

Turning Plastic Into Oil

A recycling facility in Whitehorse, Yukon, converts used plastic to oil with the Blest Machine.
By Staff, Utne Reader
November/December 2013

From the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to the local landfill, the plastic that makes our lives so easy becomes a huge burden once we’re done using it. When hopeful news of a Japanese-designed plastic-to-oil converter surfaced in 2010, the internet rejoiced, but accounts of the Blest Machine’s actual use have been hard to find. Now, reports Julie Bélanger for Alternatives Journal (March-April 2013), at least one large recycling plant is using the machine.

Better than the landfill: Pyrolysis turns plastic bags into crude oil

Researchers at the University of Illinois have found a way to make diesel and gas out of used plastic bags

By Daniel Hills

Walk down any city street and you’ll undoubtedly see an underlying commonality: plastic bags. Either littered about the gutter or being used by a passer–by, plastic bags are everywhere. Plastic bags are inexpensive to produce, easy to transport, and take about half a millennia to biodegrade. Recently, researchers at the University of Illinois’ Sustainable Technology Center have come up with a process that doesn’t make plastic bags biodegrade faster, but uses the petroleum composition of plastic bags (what keeps them from breaking down) to make fuels like diesel and gasoline. Dr. Sriraam R Chandrasekaran, a research and development engineer from the Sustainable Technology Center who helped develop the process, took some time to speak with me about his findings.

Could you walk me through the process of creating fuel from plastic bags?

Dr. Sriraam R Chandrasekaran: “Standard plastic bags are basically made from petroleum by–products. What we do is collect plastic bags and put them through a process called pyrolysis. Pyrolysis is basically combusting all these materials in an oxygen deficient atmosphere. When you do that it produces syn–gas [synthetic gas], when you condense the syn–gas it forms crude oil. If you want to further distillate it you can get diesel, or gasoline.”

The pyrolysis setup in the lab. On the left: a container of plastic bags. On the right: extracted crude oil.

How many plastic bags does it take to make 1 gallon of crude oil?

SC: “The plastic bags have a very low density, 8 lbs. of grocery bags yield about 1 gallon of crude oil. A pound of plastic bags contains approximately 75-100 bags, about 700–800 plastic bags will produce roughly a gallon of crude oil.”

Is there any difference between the crude oil that comes out of the ground and the crude oil produced with plastic bags?

SC: “The crude oil from the plastic bags has slightly better properties than the crude oil you get from underground. The reason being is the plastic bags are made from petroleum, so crude oil made from plastic bags have fewer trace metals, such as sulfur.”

Is this process scalable?

SC: «Yes. There are technologies available to scale up. We are currently working on the scale up process, we’ve been conducting small-scale batch experiments and we’ve gone a little higher for the pilot scales too. Whatever we produce in our lab, as an integral part of the Sustainable Technology Center, we expand to the pilot scale and also work to transfer the technology to the industry.»

Different fuels made from plastic bags.

Is the process dangerous?

SC: «No. Pyrolysis is one of the only high temperature processes where not much pressure is involved. And it’s a closed system so net emissions are almost zero. There are definitely no harmful emissions since it’s a closed system.»

What’s the future of creating fuels from plastic?

SC: «Right now we’ve been concentrating on grocery bags, but we are slowly expanding our research studies to other types of plastics that are not recyclable, and end up in landfills. We’re trying to optimize the process, combining different plastics and see if we can get the same results. There are a lot of plastics available that are not recyclable and ideal for energy conversion. Our work is expanding into all these plastics, instead of concentrating on high–density or low–density plastics we are trying to expand it to all non–recyclable plastics.»

What chemical by–products are produced as a result of the pyrolysis?

SC: «The by–products of the pyrolysis process are very minimal. Most of the hydrocarbons that are produced by the process are condensed and collected in the form of liquid. Some of the gasses produced that could be volatile and escape, we have a process of catalytic conversion where any unburned hydrocarbons are completely converted to carbon dioxide.»

What else are you working on?

SC: «It is not just plastics we are doing; we are also trying to convert biomass materials, using the pyrolysis process, into biochar and biofuel. We do a lot of work related to energy stuff. Getting biochar uses the same process as getting crude oil, only the raw material is biomass and not plastic bags.»