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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 ramorim ( 1257654 ) on Friday June 20, 2014 @02:34PM (#47283711) Homepage Journal
    If this technology is so good like they said, and many companies (or better: governments) adopt such ways of transforming plastic into fuel, we can organize all the World plastic waste in to TWO recycle ways: produce FUEL and recycle PLASTIC. We don't need to transform all the plastic waste into fuel. The industry still needs plastic in their products so with a better equilibrium we can reduce the petroleum extraction (a.k.a.: dependency), try to utilize all the annual plastic waste, and (better) we can contribute with the environment with less pollution, in the air and in the ground (I think).
  • Not exactly green (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Derec01 ( 1668942 ) on Friday June 20, 2014 @02:36PM (#47283735)

    I'm all for eliminating waste, but if the net effect is that we're removing plastic from landfills and emitting it as CO2, that's not terribly different from digging up crude oil and emitting it as CO2.

    Now, I'm sure there's some sort of multiplier here that makes it a bit better - perhaps the plastics are a cleaner source and less energy will be used to process it - but currently this carbon is sequestered in an inert if unattractive form whose dangers are mostly localized.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Friday June 20, 2014 @02:41PM (#47283775) Homepage
    While this converts waste plastic to oil it does not however:
    A.: complete this conversion at a less than or equal cost of energy generated by the oil. The shredder, crucible, and condenser arent powered by the mellow rock stylings of huey lewis and the news.
    B.: Absolve us from researching alternatives to crude oil, a fossil fuel that is finite in supply and directly contributing to climate change.

    Our lust for oil has become all but indistinguishable from a heroin addicts search for a fix.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 20, 2014 @02:43PM (#47283809)

    I suspect that it's easier to just make it into oil, even the techically 'recyclable' plastics, due to contamination with dyes and other such things: I suspect making clear or lighter-colored plastics from recycled stuff is hard if not impossible, though dark colors may be easy enough to work with.

    On the other hand, it's probably going to be easier(in terms of cost, energy etc) to just make oil out of all of it which goes into reducing fuel consumption, and use that oil for making new plastic.

  • by Troyusrex ( 2446430 ) on Friday June 20, 2014 @02:45PM (#47283831)
    Unfortunately, those ocean garbage patches average four 5 X 5 X 1 mm piece of plastic per cubic meter so while a clean up tanker would be great for the environment it wouldn't collect enough to make a meaningful dent in its own fuel needs.
  • by Ravaldy ( 2621787 ) on Friday June 20, 2014 @02:49PM (#47283863)

    It's not the point. The point is to take a material that does nothing and to make it useful again. There's only so much plastic you can convert back into carpet and other non critical product. If this isn't BS and the result of the transformation is more fuel than what was used then it's a no brainer. The technology will be adopted and improved which will have even bigger ROI.

    Currently we pay to get rid of plastic. This allows making plastic disposal lucrative and that in my books is a positive ROI.

  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Friday June 20, 2014 @03:32PM (#47284197)

    100 mm^3 of plastic per m^3 of water doesn't sound much like a garbage patch to me...

Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed. -- Neil Armstrong