Think your plastic is being recycled? Think again.

by Jen Hayden
Think those plastic items you carefully separate from the rest of your trash are being responsibly recycled? Think again. U.S. recycling companies have largely stayed away from recycling plastic and most of it has been shipped to China where it can be processed cheaper. Not anymore. This year China announced a Green Fence Policy, prohibiting much of the plastic recycling they once imported:

For many environmentally conscious Americans, there’s a deep satisfaction to chucking anything and everything plasticky into the recycling bin—from shampoo bottles to butter tubs—the types of plastics in the plastic categories #3 through #7. Little do they know that, even if their local trash collector says it recycles that waste, they might as well be chucking those plastics in the trash bin.

“[Plastics] 3-7 are absolutely going to a landfill—[China’s] not taking that any more… because of Green Fence,” David Kaplan, CEO of Maine Plastics, a post-industrial recycler, tells Quartz. “This will continue until we can do it in the United States economically.”U.S. recyclers are scrambling to come up with a solution now that China is drastically cutting back on their top import from the U.S.:

China’s demand for low-cost recycled raw materials has meant waste shipments from Europe, the US, Japan and Hong Kong have arrived thick and fast, with scrap becoming the top US export to China by value ($11.3bn) in 2011.

China controls a large portion of the recycling market, importing about 70% of the world’s 500m tonnes of electronic waste and 12m tonnes of plastic waste each year. Sudden Chinese policy changes therefore have a significant impact on the global recycling trade, which puts pressure on western countries to reconsider their reliance on the cost-effective practice of exporting waste, a habit that’s reinforced by a lack of domestic recycling infrastructure and a lower demand for secondary raw materials.China’s Green Fence policy just might spur the U.S. government and recyclers into much-needed innovation:

Historically, higher labor costs and environmental safety standards made processing scrap into raw materials much more expensive in the US than in China. So the US never developed much capacity or technology to sort and process harder-to-break down plastics like #3 through #7.

Green Fence might be a chance to change that, says Mike Biddle, CEO of California-based recycling company MBA Polymers. “China’s Green Fence offers a real opportunity to the US government and recycling industry to step up its efforts on recycling and catalyze a strong domestic recycling market in the US,” Biddle said at a recent webinar on Green Fence.Some U.S. recycling companies are applauding the news:

The policy also has leveled the playing field by allowing large-scale companies that have invested additional money in pollution control and recycling services to operate at a more equal and fair-cost level, according to Kathy Xuan, CEO of full-service recycler Parc Corp. of Romeoville, Ill.

With China taking a harder look at the plastic waste it imports, U.S.-based recyclers are looking for opportunities in the changing global market.

Parc has doubled production in the last six months, Xuan said in a July 2 webinar hosted by the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. of Washington.The opportunity for big change (and big profits) is there. Let’s hope the U.S. government and recycling companies don’t throw away the opportunity to lead the way.


Paresh Khetan

In their study, John Randolph and Gilbert Masters discuss the role that energy plays in society. The authors begin by reviewing man’s relationship with energy throughout history. They cite fire as the “first conscious human-engineered energy conversion.” With the development of new conversions and technologies, society grows in terms of population and economy. However, the current dilemma that society now faces is that of sustainability, which is defined as “patterns of economic, environmental, and social progress that meets the need of the present day without reducing the capacity to meet future needs.” The true challenge is meeting current needs while also taking into consideration that 37% of the world’s energy is still derived from petroleum. Time or rather the lack of it, is another important issue to consider. Despite obvious evidence of our role in global warming, we have yet to take measures that counter the damage we have caused. While all societies are at fault, nations such as the United States serve as examples for the rest of the globe. The US accounted for 20% of global energy usage while it only contains less than 5% of the global population. If top nations are not concerned with sustainable standards, then why should developing nations sacrifice their potential advances? Is it not their right to achieve basic societal needs and to expand their economies? The first chapter of this study outlines the need for us to develop a sustainable future that can complement a growing economy and population. While the article does not particularly discuss plastic waste management, it presents a solid historical analysis which makes sustainability an immediate global issue.

Economic Impact of Plastics-to-Oil Facilities in the U.S.

Introduction Plastics recycling has continued to grow in the United States over the past few decades, with a total of 2.8 million tons of plastics recycled in 2012. 1 While reuse and recycling are the preferred methods of plastics recovery, it is not always economically feasible – or even possible – for all plastics to be recycled, illustrating the opportunity for other economical means of recovering plastics. Because they are derived from hydrocarbons, plastics have a high energy content that can be converted to crude oil and fuels, synthetic gas, and recycled feedstocks for new plastics and other products of chemistry. Various conversion technologies such as mass burn waste-to-energy, gasification and pyrolysis, are able to recover the energy contained in plastics. Recovering this valuable energy through conversion technologies reduces waste sent to landfills and complements plastics recycling. 2 Investment in the technologies — and associated facilities — needed to capture this energy value will contribute to sustainable development, create jobs, and has the potential to contribute billions of dollars to the economy. This report presents the results of the analysis conducted to quantify the potential economic impact that investments in conversion technology facilities could have on the United States. For the purposes of this report, the analysis focused only on the conversion technology of pyrolysis, referred to here as ―plastics-to-oil‖ or ―PTO‖ technology. 

Pyrolysis is a process by which non-recycled plastics (NRP) are source-separated and converted to synthetic crude oil or other types of fuel oil by means of thermal treatment. Although there are several manufacturers of PTO technologies, each with some variation in its technology, the basic steps of the process are the same: first the NRP, which can be mixed plastics, is collected and pretreated; then heat converts the plastics to a gaseous state and any non-plastic materials (char) are removed; finally, the gas is distilled into a liquid (oil/fuel) and either sold as is or further refined into fuels or other petroleum products before entering the market. This report is based on metrics developed by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) for two variations of hypothetical PTO facilities using data collected from publically-available sources and information provided by members of the American Chemistry Council’s Plastics-to-Oil Technologies Alliance.3 Using the conservative assumption that 20% of the amount of post-consumer NRP4 landfilled each year could be diverted to PTO facilities, 5 we estimate that the U.S. could support between 350 and 600 PTO facilities, depending on the production characteristics and size of the facility.

Performance, emission and combustion characteristics of a DI diesel engine using waste plastic oil

Applied Thermal Engineering (Impact Factor: 2.62). 09/2009; 29(13):2738-2744. DOI: 10.1016/j.applthermaleng.2009.01.007

ABSTRACT Increase in energy demand, stringent emission norms and depletion of oil resources have led the researchers to find alternative fuels for internal combustion engines. On the other hand waste plastic pose a very serious environment challenge because of their disposal problems all over the world. Plastics have now become indispensable materials in the modern world and application in the industrial field is continually increasing. In this context, waste plastic solid is currently receiving renewed interest. The properties of the oil derived from waste plastics were analyzed and compared with the petroleum products and found that it has properties similar to that of diesel. In the present work, waste plastic oil was used as an alternate fuel in a DI diesel engine without any modification. The present investigation was to study the performance, emission and combustion characteristics of a single cylinder, four-stroke, air-cooled DI diesel engine run with waste plastic oil. The experimental results have showed a stable performance with brake thermal efficiency similar to that of diesel. Carbon dioxide and unburned hydrocarbon were marginally higher than that of the diesel baseline. The toxic gas carbon monoxide emission of waste plastic oil was higher than diesel. Smoke reduced by about 40% to 50% in waste plastic oil at all loads.
To read this article follow this link:

Engine Performance and Emission Characteristics of Plastic Oil Produced from Waste Polyethylene and Its Blends with Diesel Fuel

International Journal of Green Energy (Impact Factor: 2.07). 09/2014; DOI: 10.1080/15435075.2014.893873

ABSTRACT The overall objective of this study was to explore the utility of waste plastics as a potential source of diesel fuel. An experimental study was conducted to evaluate the use of various blends of plastic oil produced from waste polyethylene (WPE) with diesel fuel (D). WPE was degraded thermally and catalytically using sodium aluminum silicate as a catalyst. The oil collected at optimum conditions (414°C–480°C range and 1 h reaction time) was fractionated at different temperatures and fuel properties of the fractions were measured. Plastic oil was blended with diesel fuel at the volumetric ratios of 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, and 100%. Fuel properties of blends are found comparable with those of diesel fuel within the EN 590 Diesel Fuel standard and they can also be used as fuel in compression ignition engines without any modification. Engine performance and exhaust emission studies of 5% WPE-D (WPE5) blend were performed. Experimental results showed that carbon monoxide (CO) emission is decreased by 20.63%, carbon dioxide (CO2) emission is increased by 3.34%, and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emission is increased by 9.17% with WPE-D (WPE5) blend compared to diesel fuel.

Barcelona Apartments

CR&R Waste and Recycling Services is one of Southern California’s most innovative and successful recycling and waste collection companies, serving more than 2.5 million people and 5,000 businesses throughout Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Imperial, and Riverside counties. Thanks to groundbreaking technologies and pioneering reclamation programs, we are able to recycle over 120,000 tons of materials each year, creating cleaner communities, reducing air and water pollution, conserving landfill space, and extending our natural resources. We’re making your neighborhood a better place to live and work.

Our job may be to pick up and dispose of trash, but our mission is to help improve the communities we serve and to create a higher quality of life for it’s residents. We do so, not only through some of today’s most innovative recycling and reuse programs, but by getting involved in community events and supporting our many neighbors. Through educational programs, we help keep our customers informed about new services, laws, and advancements. And through volunteering, our employees aid numerous worthy causes throughout the communities we serve. After all, we live here too, and take pride in knowing we are making a difference. That’s what good business is all about.
(800) 826-9677 (press O for assistant)  left a message with Bob Williams ext. 2267
(714) 372-8287 (Craig Dibley ext. 2242)

Orange County Register

ORANGE — The new waste collection franchise in Orange is on track to accomplishing its goal of delivering 100,000 trash bins to homes throughout the city by Friday.
The City Council awarded CR&R Waste Services a $100-million-plus, eight-year contract in July 2009 to become the city’s trash collector. The company is taking over from Waste Management and the contract begins Feb. 1.
To accomplish the task of delivering so many trash bins, CR&R spokesman Dean Ruffridge said the company has 80 workers, divided into seven teams scattered throughout the city.
As Waste Management trucks collect trash and pick up some bins, Ruffridge said CR&R trucks are right behind them to drop off three new bins to homes.