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Power Science Technology

Continuous System For Converting Waste Plastics Into Crude Oil 139

rtoz writes: A MIT spinout company aims to end the landfilling of plastic with a cost-effective system that breaks down nonrecycled plastics into oil, while reusing some of the gas it produces to operate. To convert the plastics into oil, this new system first shreds them. The shreds are then entered into a reactor — which runs at about 400 degrees Celsius — where a catalyst helps degrade the plastics' long carbon chains. This produces a vapor that runs through a condenser, where it's made into oil. Much of the system's innovation is in its continuous operation (video). This company aims to produce more refined fuel that recyclers can immediately pump back into their recycling trucks, without the need for oil refineries. Currently, 2 trillion tons of plastic waste is sitting in U.S. landfills, so there is a huge demand for this technology.
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Continuous System For Converting Waste Plastics Into Crude Oil

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 20, 2014 @02:53PM (#47283899)

    The garbage patches aren't really big piles of plastic. They're areas above some theshold of plastic to water but still vastly more water than plastic. You'd have to develop something to suck in water and filter out the plastic before you could even start on converting it.

  • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Friday June 20, 2014 @03:05PM (#47284007)

    It said in the article that the plastic itself, once converted to fuel is used to fuel the process which is converting the plastic to fuel. In other words they pull off a little of the fuel converted from the plastic to fuel the process going forward. Other than the initial startup energy it should be energy independent.

    Plastic is a nasty waste product (it doesn't biodegrade and it kills living things) that we need to find a way to either reuse or properly destroy. Converting the several trillion tons of plastic waste in US landfills into fuel oil not only saves the space in the landfills it recovers energy from a waste product. It's a good idea if the total economics of the setup are profitable enough to justify hauling it to a disposal site or small enough to build these at landfills. It's a damn good waste reduction technique that will ensure we don't end up with the planet in the movie Wall-E (which was buried in garbage like plastic waste).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 20, 2014 @03:11PM (#47284039)

    From the article:

    About 70 to 80 percent of the product comes out as oil. Roughly 10 to 20 percent becomes hydrocarbon gas that heats the system, while the remainder is char residue.

    For every 10 units of plastic the system is fed, it generates 7-8 units of oil, 1-2 units of gas which powers the system, and 0-1 units of waste 'char residue'. So it produces quite a bit more fuel from the plastic than it consumes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 20, 2014 @04:20PM (#47284527)

    I think the gold in seawater might be more valuable than the plastic. With gold at 0.000011 ppm in seawater and $42.27 per gram, a cubic meter of seawater contains 1/20 of 1 cent worth of gold. Assuming that the garbage patches have 0.1 ppm plastic and a scrap price of $0.50/pound, a cubic meter of seawater has about 1/100 of 1 cent of plastic.

    In other words, if you're going to be doing all that work to mine the seawater, you'll do better off extracting gold from it than plastic!


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