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Earth Power

JBI's Plastic To Oil Gets Operating Permit 223

Whammy666 writes "JBI, Inc. announced that it has entered into a formal Consent Order with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Region 9, which will allow the Company to immediately run its Plastic2Oil (P2O) process commercially and begin construction of an additional processor at its Niagara Falls, New York P2O facility. JBI has developed a process that takes waste plastic destined for landfills and converts it into diesel fuel, gasoline, and natural gas with very little residue. The process is said to be very efficient thanks to a special catalyst developed by JBI and an attention to process optimization. That plastic water bottle you tossed in the trash could soon be fueling your car instead of sitting in a landfill for 1000 years."
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JBI's Plastic To Oil Gets Operating Permit

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  • Just what we need... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by A beautiful mind ( 821714 ) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @04:55AM (#34571464)
    Hurray, we can turn safely contained pollution on/in the ground into air pollution! Someone managed to rebrand this exercise as environmentally conscious, while all we're doing is burning trash. Hat's off, really.
    • Any reason why this fuel oil couldn't be converted back into a different plastic? It's been a while since I studied hydrocarbon cracking, but if producing fuel oils is now a two way process, why not?
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The output is mostly diesel, it also creates propane, methane, and a few other things, that are captured for either further processing, or use in its current state. Apparently JBI has been running a demo unit for a while under a demo permit, and has tankers full of fuel ready for further use. Posting Anonymously, because, well, because its safer that way...

    • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @07:43AM (#34571984) Journal

      You make an invalid assumption that oil==bad.

      In modern SULEV cars the air coming out of the exhaust is actually cleaner than the air going in, due to the catalytic converter neutralizing lung-damaging poisons like NOx and CO as the air passes from intake to exhaust. Ditto oil-burning electric plants. I consider that better than letting the solidified oil (plastic) lay in the ground or float in the ocean for a thousand years until bacteria breaks it down.

      Converting our waste to oil will also allow us leave a few million tons of crude in the mantle rather than dig it up. The ideal would be to reach a point where we don't need to dig-up any oil, and can just run our society on the accumulated plastics of the last ~100 years, plus solar power.

      • You have a link to a source explaining that the SUVLEV and oil-burning electric plants exhaust is cleaner than the intake air?

        • At least one source (marketing, though) claiming that PZEV can emit less than ambient: []

          And, there are other sources detailing how to accurately test a PZEV to avoid getting a negative emissions reading.

          • Please note that PZEV is essentially a subset of the SULEV standard.
            PZEV is a SULEV car with an extended 150,000-mile warranty on the exhaust control system.

          • by jbengt ( 874751 )
            The article you linked does not actually state that the vehicles will emit air cleaner than the ambient, except "by some measures". It does also quote someone who states that a jogger will breathe better air jogging behind one of these vehicles if the radiator is treated to remove ambient ozone (so in a high ozone area, the air would be improved, apart from tailpipe emissions).
            • In other words, it doesn't clean the air. (Of course it doesn't!) You have to hand it to doublespeak. Marketing copywriters are managing to convince some people that automobile exhaust is more breathable than air. Astonishing.

        • I heard that a lot, it's worth checking. At the very least, I didn't find it on Snopes.

          It's just USA Today, but this is what I found so far:


          • by jbengt ( 874751 )
            The article you linked does not state that the tailpipe emissions are cleaner than the ambient air:

            Tailpipe pollution of a PZEV is as much as 90% less than from other new cars.

            The cars won't deliver California levels of low pollution without California's unique blend of low-sulfur gas

            But even on non-California gasoline, PZEVs pollute little. Ford says the PZEV Focus puts out a pound of smog-producing pollutants in 15,000 miles on California gas, roughly two pounds on typical U.S. fuel. A non-PZEV Focus would put out 10.7 pounds in 15,000 miles, Ford calculates.

      • You mean to say that "go suck on a tailpipe" will cease to be a death-wishing insult?

        What is this world coming to?

        • You won't be poisoned by a SULEV or diesel car's carbon monoxide (since both are essentially zero), but you will develop lung cancer & heart disease from the particulate matter (carbon ash). So no I don't recommend sucking tailpipes. Makes a good fertilizer for plants though. ;-)

          • Wishing cancer and/or heart disease on someone is more of a long-term situation.

            Sure, it may be more "entertaining" in the long run, but it just ain't the same.

          • Actually, if you don't breathe some different air quickly, you'll die from lack of oxygen. There's no oxygen in tailpipe emissions, since it was all consumed inside the engine, and humans need to breathe oxygen to live.

      • by caseih ( 160668 )

        It's also true that the air coming out of a tier-4 diesel engine is supposed to be cleaner than the air that went in, in terms of articulates and NOx. But that does very little to address the root causes of global climate change, which is net CO2.

        If it does reduce dependency on foreign oil, it's a good thing, though, but it's certainly not about reducing CO2 emissions.

        • by Pharmboy ( 216950 ) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @12:32PM (#34574890) Journal

          I think that is the main point: You take a barrel of oil and you get to use it twice. And while the whole world is fretting about CO2, the idea of reducing the footprint of plastic trash from 100% to 1% is nothing to sneeze at. Add the other ongoing research to create alcohol out of cellulose (another major portion of trash), and all of a sudden you are virtually "mining" trash by reusing the plastics and paper, making recovering of the aluminum and steel easier. This also decreases water pollution in the long run.

          What matters is that using plastics to create oil isn't going to INCREASE CO2, as those cars would be burning something or another to run regardless of source. What also matters is that this would DECREASE the need for agriculture to be specific for fuels, which pushes food prices up and increases the amount of fertilizer (and other pollutants) in the system. It isn't a silver bullet that fixes pollution, but it can be part of a better overall energy policy.

    • While it might be better to avoid creating the plastic waste in the first place... If the plastic is headed to the landfill anyway, the eventual decay byproducts will include gasses like methane anyway. Better to put it to use than let it escape into the atmosphere.
    • Hurray, we can turn safely contained pollution on/in the ground into air pollution!

      You're presenting it as instead of landfill bulk, we now have pollution in the air. That's a false dichotomy. We're already going to burn oil, doesn't matter if we get the oil from plastic recycled or "fresh" from the ground.

      This way we have only the air pollution instead of air pollution, plastic bottles in the sea, AND oil spills in the gulf of Mexico.

  • by geegel ( 1587009 ) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @04:55AM (#34571468)

    ... after studying the chemical composition of oil: "This stuff is way too valuable to simply burn it".

  • So your average plastic water bottle requires about 1/4 a litre of refined oil products to be produced. How much oil do you get back from this?

    Don't get me wrong it's a great solution to what's already in the landfill, but if most people re-used, re-cycled or substituted (wtf do you need to buy bottled water anyway, the stuff runs from every tap in the city), then there would be a much bigger impact. How much energy does the process need? What are the impacts with regard to the catalyst that is used? Ho
    • by zero0ne ( 1309517 ) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @05:19AM (#34571538) Journal

      From their website, it shows that 1 kilogram of plastic converts roughly to one litre of oil.

      So the big question in my book is, how much does 1 kilogram of scrap plastic cost, and how much power is needed to do that conversion.

      If we say that one litre of oil is worth ~$1, 1 tonne of plastic is ~$200, and power used for one kilogram conversion is a minuscule 1kilowatt.

      You have ~$0.30 in direct costs, but after factoring in the plant, machinery, tankers, etc etc etc, the margins on this process must be hair thin.

      OH, thats right, lets not forget the government subsidies!

      • by lloydchristmas759 ( 1105487 ) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @05:38AM (#34571604)

        power used for one kilogram conversion is a minuscule 1kilowatt.

        Power is meaningless here. Energy is what shall be considered. And the physical unit for energy is the Joule (J), or possibly the kilowatt-hour (kWh).

        Usually I don't try to explain that anymore, but here it's different, it's Slashdot...

      • And which way are the oil prices headed?

        You have to think long term.

      • by Asic Eng ( 193332 ) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @05:53AM (#34571662)
        1 tonne of plastic is ~$200

        I think you would have to get paid in order to take the plastic - putting plastic in a landfill is not free. So 1 tonne of plastic costs $x to store in a landfill - residue costs $y to store in a landfill - so $x-$y would contribute to your margin.

      • Might be why they're locating in Niagara Falls.
        Niagara Falls has (or at least had) tons of industry because plentiful cheap hydro energy.
        Businesses regularly get that cheap hydro at a discount to entice jobs.

        Hasn't worked like it used to because the offshore production costs were so much cheaper it eliminated the advantage... but in this case, it might make sense... the main cost for this process is likely to be energy, and it wouldn't work to offshore this industry, I'd think.

      • My concern is if you get a net win in energy. If you do, that's great. If you don't, then it should be scrapped like ethanol should be scrapped and not subsidized simply as a feel good program.

        • Even if the energy is break-even, you're converting electricity from a hydro plant where very little manufacturing exists any more into fuel that can be used in cars and trucks. It's still more efficient than battery-based electric cars (which are great, don't get me wrong, but with battery storage losses and range issues, anyone other than a short-haul commuter won't find them very useful).

          We can easily convert petroleum into electricity, but this is a way to convert electricity plus garbage into petroleu

      • Although I don't put much faith in this process until I have more data, the "government subsidies" is not a good argument, since the oil being worth $1 a litre does not account for all the indirect subsidy of military intervention to insure constant suply.
      • Ok, having worked in a recycling center doing IT work I would imagine that paper economies and plastic economies are much the same. The way it works is that depending on economic factors they would likely take the plastic for free, or might pay a small dividend for it.

        It's really up to their providers to determine the costs of sorting the plastic out. If your already sorting plastic to begin with than it makes sense, if you aren't than the costs of sorting the plastic out of the garbage and transporting it

    • by tjansen ( 2845 )

      "So your average plastic water bottle requires about 1/4 a litre of refined oil products to be produced."

      I have no idea of plastic production, but it looks wrong to me: if oil costs about $40 per barrel (159l), 1/4 litre is about $0.05. I can't imaging a plastic bottle costing that much - I can buy a bottle of water in a supermarket for not much more than 5 cent. Am I missing something?

      • by tjansen ( 2845 )

        Oh, just checked oil prices... $88 per barrel. That means a plastic water bottle's raw material costs over $0.10?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 16, 2010 @07:21AM (#34571900)
        Yes you are. The 1/4 litre is refined oil products not raw crude oil. During refining many components in crude are separated and depending on the economics of the refinery various products are made, be it diesel, kerosene, jet, bitumen, extracted impurities such as sulphur, mercaptain, and if there's a chemical plant nearby often propylene and other feedstocks to create plastics through polymerisation. If there's no chemical plant around hydrcarbons like propylene are either minimised or converted to more profitable products.

        So while 1/4 litre of refined product is needed to make a bottle, much more crude is needed, however that crude contains other quite valuable products that also generate money, so there never can be a generalised direct link between the price of oil and the price of a finished product as it heavily depends on the economics of the individual refinery.

        I work at a refinery which is currently burning propylene and butylene through the flare because the unit which uses that feed is down, and it's cheaper to burn it than to try and sell it to a chemical plant. That doesn't directly affect the price of bottles in the local shops either :)
    • I'd like to point out 2 things here:
      1. this is a form of re-cycling
      2. there are many uses of plastics that are near impossible to avoid as a consumer.

      So while I agree with your statement about bottled water, I think your statement about re-use/re-cycle/substitute is overly simplified, and ignores that this is just another way of re-cycling.

      Yes, those things will help a fair bit but having a way to better re-cycle the plastic we end up with anyway is solving a problem independent of if people re-use/substitu

  • Landfill? (Score:5, Informative)

    by matt4077 ( 581118 ) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @05:04AM (#34571500) Homepage
    If it ends up in a landfill right now, you're doing something wrong. Some countries (Scandinavia) have recycling quotas >90% already.
    • Try Germany ... they refill the bottles and use them again. Wow!

    • Re:Landfill? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @07:56AM (#34572026)

      I like what Germany does (perhaps other European countries too) with drinks, slap a deposit on it and any place that sells it must take it back and refund said deposit. None of this recycling center hodgepodge BS. Most drinks are in glass bottles (which I greatly prefer) although unfortunately plastic bottles have been coming in on personal size more and more.

      Oh, and since almost all drinks come in plastic crates (also a deposit and reused) when you buy in quantity, including water, applejuice and Coca-Cola and the like, the customer isn't using plastic bags upon plastic bags getting it home, which is a f-ing hassle if you ask me. There are even services through most of the country that bring crates of whatever you want drink-wise to you, they'll come once a week, once a month, or whatever, take the empty bottles in the crates and exchange them. Like milkmen of lore here. []
      or it translated to English [] (and yes, I realize there is an English wikipedia page on it, but it doesn't cover prices and other details).

      Still, glass rules. Clean and no worries about organic chemistry this or that.

      I wish they implemented the pfand system here in the states, not just with water bottles, but with CFLs and fluorescent lights, electronics, batteries and other things - things THAT SHOULD NOT BE THROWN AWAY in the trash, but people rarely do otherwise because it's either an inconvenience or expensive to do it properly. Often, it's expensive to do it properly because it's not done on a massive scale (for instance, it costs me more to recycle my fluorescent tubes than it is to buy them - that ain't right).

      Walmart does this with car batteries, charging something like $8 and gives it back when you bring you're old one in. But I don't know if that is voluntary on Walmart's behalf, and limited to my state or other states -- but it's a good system.

      • Re:Landfill? (Score:5, Informative)

        by rhook ( 943951 ) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @08:56AM (#34572324)

        Walmart does this with car batteries, charging something like $8 and gives it back when you bring you're old one in. But I don't know if that is voluntary on Walmart's behalf, and limited to my state or other states -- but it's a good system.

        Every place that sells car batteries does that, it's called a core fee. Most auto parts that can be re-manufactured have it.

      • For what it's worth, Michigan does exactly what you describe [] (link is to PDF), at least with bottles and cans. I don't know why other states with deposits don't do the same, or for that matter why so few states have deposits.

      • I like what Germany does (perhaps other European countries too) with drinks, slap a deposit on it and any place that sells it must take it back and refund said deposit.

        America does that for many drinks, and not just ones that come in plastic bottles. Glass and Aluminum are also targeted.

        We did not enact this for the recycling benefits .. we enacted it to stop the bulk of non-biodegradable littering.

      • ...slap a deposit on it and any place that sells it must take it back and refund said deposit.

        We have a five cent deposit on soda here in New York State. Half the people I see just throw their cans and bottles in the garbage can anyway. Amusingly, it's often the people with the lower incomes who are the ones just tossing that money in the trash. Though maybe we need a deposit larger than 5 cents...

      • "Oh, and since almost all drinks come in plastic crates (also a deposit and reused) when you buy in quantity, including water, applejuice and Coca-Cola and the like,"

        I love the crate system, which BTW is a most excellent way to carry beer. The ceramic "pop tops" with rubber gaskets on some bottles ensure reusability.

        "Walmart does this with car batteries, charging something like $8 and gives it back when you bring you're old one in. But I don't know if that is voluntary on Walmart's behalf, and limited to my

  • by nido ( 102070 ) <.moc.oohay. .ta. .65odin.> on Thursday December 16, 2010 @05:16AM (#34571522) Homepage

    I've been watching GRC [] for a while now... Last I heard their prototype microwave was functional, and they were taking orders. The prototype uses a vacuum chamber: fill the chamber with used tires, apply vacuum, turn on the microwave, and *poof*, out comes the hydrocarbons.

    Every 20lb tire [] yields a gallon of diesel fuel, ~50 cubic feet of "propane" (butane and... something else), recyclable steel, and carbon black. Haven't seen anything recently, just a new patent for using microwaves to desalinate seawater...

    This thing looks useful too - there's a ton of plastic warehoused in the world's garbage dumps, and it won't be long until they start getting mined.

  • by scsirob ( 246572 ) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @05:22AM (#34571552)

    I remember reading about a huge amount of plastic floating in the ocean. Since it was just garbage no-one seemed interested in cleaning that up.

    Now this plastic has become a valuable supply for producing oil, I'm sure some entrepreneur will stand up and collect it for a profit!

    • by Asic Eng ( 193332 ) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @05:57AM (#34571680)
      No yet, I think. The "garbage patch" is a huge area of the ocean which consists of a mixture of plastic particles and sea water. Getting the plastic out of that corrosive sea water, in an inaccessible location - that's going to be a lot more expensive than recycling plastic which would otherwise be transported to a landfill. You'd probably start mining closed landfills first before you'd consider the garbage patch.
    • by Lispy ( 136512 ) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @06:07AM (#34571702) Homepage

      Your view on the world is criminally simplistic. The great pacific garbage patch is several thousands of miles away from the west coast of the US. Furthermore this stuff is highly fragmented into tiny pieces. Processing this would be really painful. Even if youd set up your plant right there floating in the ocean transportation would hardly justify the cost of harvesting. I really wish you would have a point but I dont see this happening for a long time. If you compare this to the gulf of mexcio where you can easily drill for oil in your backyard there is no way this would work. Its sad put this probably isnt a solution. The big benefit for this technology could be that we just stop dumping our trash into the ocean in the first place. But for whats there already we might have to come up with something else. Like somebody said in this thread: Just dont buy bottled water and try to avoid plastics if you can find a reasonable alternative. Its actually pretty hard, I have been trying to do this for the last year and often theres just no option: e.g. keyboards, toothbrushes, tupperware and so on...

  • Blasphemy! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Jhyrryl ( 208418 ) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @05:36AM (#34571594)

    The Earth wants plastic for itself, and created us to make it! (Thank you, George Carlin.)

  • So this guy has a process that takes plastic and turns it into oil to power cars. Great...

    Well guess what: the new trend is electric, or hybrid-electric cars. Their main fuel is electricity, and there's already a very efficient way to turn waste plastic into electricity, by burning it to fuel a power plant (with the proper filters at the smokestacks to avoid polluting and all). Even accounting for the loses in transportation, battery storage and reuse in electric motors, I bet the plastic-powered electric c

    • The main output of this is Diesel fuel. The fuel used to power large trucks. The same trucks that can't be converted to electricity because we don't have anywhere NEAR the energy density necessary in electric storage to power a cross-country truck.

      We can very easily convert petroleum into electricity. We have few means of turning electricity plus old petroleum into new petroleum. This is a stopgap measure that will be obsolete in 50 years, but will still be useful for at least a few more decades.

    • by kent_eh ( 543303 )
      Oil isn't just used for burning.
      even electric card need lubricating oil, and hydraulic oil.
  • They have clearly been watching the Doctor Who story 'The Green Death' (1973) and decided to reverse the oil-to-sludge process described therein.
  • by Tar-Alcarin ( 1325441 ) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @06:10AM (#34571730)

    Why is JBIs solution supposed to be a better alternative than the UN sponsored machine made by Blest (founded by Akinori Ito)?
    IIRC, /. reported on this earlier this year, but no-one mentions a comparison between these solutions.

    Check out the article [] and the video [] about Blests "plastic to oil" solution.

    From what I can see, two of Blests major advantages, is that the equipment is so small that it's portable, and that it requires no chemical additives to do its thing.
    That's going to be a huge factor when it comes to introducing this to the developing countries, which we most definitely will need to do in the long run.

  • by Pflipp ( 130638 ) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @06:11AM (#34571734)

    Quick! Start buying up landfills!

    Plastic mining is the way of the future.

    • I get the sense that you're being sarcastic here, but I honestly believe you're on to something.

      After all, it is getting more and more expensive (both in terms of money and energy) to retrieve crude oil. Once the energy cost of producing a barrel of oil exceeds the energy we can retrieve from it, there is going to be a huge market for alternative sources for oil.
      If the cost of recycling plastics back into oil becomes lower than pumping up new oil, this becomes a viable alternative.

      • I've been predicting a boom in mining landfills for several years now. As we strip the surface mines bare, the relative concentration of minerals in landfills will start to exceed the concentration in non-war-torn areas that we can mine. Plus, as environmental law gets more strict, it gets less cost effective to mine. Focus instead on landfills, get some subsidies from the govt or owner of the landfill, and you might turn a decent profit. Methane, heavy metals, lead, steel, aluminum, plastics, oil.... there
  • Maybe the next war will be fought over those floating piles of trash in the ocean.

  • that tastes like delicious fig pudding but is luminous green and toxic.
  • by bl8n8r ( 649187 ) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @08:35AM (#34572206)
    The point is, we can't keep burning fossil fuels at the rate we have been for the last 110 years.  The Carbon, Methane and other environmentally detrimental byproducts released when fossil fuels burn is a bigger problem than running out of oil. 
    • We can if we keep coming up with ways to manufacture them, rather than mine them. Which is what I think will happen before we get viable hydrogen power.

  • by ArsenneLupin ( 766289 ) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @08:48AM (#34572276)

    That plastic water bottle you tossed in the trash could soon be fueling your car instead of sitting in a landfill for 1000 years.

    In any case, that's a lot more humane than using cats for this purpose []

  • If you are just "recycling" it for a fuel, it should be more efficient to burn it in a power plant.

  • That plastic water bottle you tossed in the trash could soon be fueling your car instead of sitting in a landfill for 1000 years.

    I'm still waiting to run my car off turkey guts. []

  • This is wrong way around. We need plastics far more than we need oil. We can get our energy from other sources, but do we want to return to fabric wrapped wiring and wooden cases for equipment?

  • I looked on their website too. None of it got into details. I wish they would post an energy balance. They say they get 1 litre of oil from 1 kg of plastic. One liter of oil has a mass of .8 kg. An 80% mass conversion rate seems a bit high to me. Though the paper linked below talks about a 3:2 conversion ratio plastic to oil. Or a 1/3 loss in mass, 66% conversion. f it is a revolutionary new pprocess it may work out. However, the paper I am citing speaks of by products such as coke and tar.

    On standard barre

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