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Brian Westenhaus

Brian Westenhaus

Brian is the editor of the popular energy technology site New Energy and Fuel. The site’s mission is to inform, stimulate, amuse and abuse the…

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Converting Plastic Back to Oil

Converting Plastic Back to Oil

Blest, a Japanese company has invented a safe and user-friendly machine that can convert plastic back to oil. The machine is effective in recycling different kinds of plastic into oil.

Plastic is one of the most versatile synthetically produced materials in the world and is also one of the environmentally unfriendly substances produced by man.  Considering its utility in myriad of industries and life spheres, it seems impossible to give up plastic entirely.

Consider this – a single plastic bottle takes about 1,000 years to break down completely.  Plastics pose a difficult problem from the manner in which it is disposed.  The fact is plastic unlike some other materials cannot be recycled easily. Typically manufactured from petroleum, its estimated that about 7 percent of the entire world’s oil production in a year is used for plastic manufacturing. That’s higher than the oil consumption of Africa. Plastic’s recycle rate around the globe is dismally low; its carbon footprint includes incineration and land filling. Plastic trash is also causing major litter and pollution on beaches and oceans around the world. Tons of plastic from Japan and U.S. are floating in the Pacific Ocean, which significantly endangers marine life.

According to the data released by Plastic Waste Management Institute – effective utilization doesn’t just take into account the 20 percent of currently recycled plastic. But it also considers the incinerated 52 percent used for energy recovery like generating electric power or heat.

Akinori Ito, CEO of Blest said, “If we burn the plastic, we generate toxins and a large amount of CO2. If we convert it into oil, we prohibit CO2 production and at the same time, increase people’s awareness about the value of plastic garbage”.

The Blest machine employs an electric heater that controls temperature instead of flame making the conversion technology is quite safe.  The machines are capable of recycling polystyrene, polyethylene and polypropylene of numbers 2 to 4. PET bottles that fall under number 1 polypropylene, however, won’t work and cannot be processed.

The process result is crude gas is that can be effectively used to fuel stoves or generators. Processed with more refinement, the gas products can be upgraded to a gasoline substitute.

One kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) of plastic using 1 kilowatt of electricity is capable of producing 1 liter (a little more than a quart) of oil. This costs approximately 20 cents or less than 80¢ per gallon at Japan’s electric rates.

Blest manufactures these machines in different sizes and so far had installed them at 60 places including fisheries, farms, small factories of Japan and abroad. “To make a machine that anyone can use is my dream,” says Ito. “The home is the oil field of the future.” Considering the fact that 30 percent of household waste in is plastic — majority of it coming from packaging — Ito’s statement is definitely not as crazy as it seems. At present, the smallest version of the machine is priced at $9,500US. The company is constantly honing its technology and looking forward to achieve a product that can be made available in poorest nations of the world.  These prices don’t involve mass production.

Ito is a bit of a campaigner.  He seems passionate about the educational aspect of the machine.  Ito has taken the model on many trips by plane to the Marshall Islands. There, he worked in conjunction with the schools and local government to educate people about the culture of recycling and the great value of useless plastic. Ito did it as a part of a project he took up a few years back. The program succeeded and it also offered a practical solution to get rid of plastics left by tourists. The oil manufactured is used for running boats and tourist buses.

For Ito, introducing the recycling concept to school children, their parents and teachers is his most important work. In Japan he demonstrates to them how drinking straws and packaging left over after lunch could be recycled. He also adds that if we were to use oil from the plastic rather than crude oil, the world’s CO2 emission could be dramatically slashed. He sarcastically questions the world “Its waste, isn’t it? This plastic is everywhere in the world and everyone throws it away.”

The problem with plastic is that when you through it away it doesn’t reform anytime soon.  Ito’s Blest offers at a remarkable low cost a way for communities to get some value for a problem that if left unanswered will get very large as more time and consumption goes by.  Some say there is a mountain of plastic out there and the mountains so far over much of the world aren’t getting any smaller.

The info offered doesn’t discuss that the process remains are, an ash, tar or other substance.  With a short list of plastics that work, perhaps the conversion nears 100%.  For those in search of a solution to cleaning up the plastics, be it the scenery or a landfill, a look at Blest is worthwhile, one might actually make some money for the trouble.

Not all plastic has a short useful life.  Of the 7% of crude going to plastic some stays in place years or decades.  But if recycling were customary another 7% of supply would gradually appear for the transport fuel market driving another demand wedge into crude oil’s price.

By. Brian Westenhaus

Source: A 7% Solution – Recycle Plastic Back to Oil

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Leave a comment
  • Colin Leslie Beadon on July 21 2013 said:
    This looks like a World saver. Especially useful in small islands like Barbados, for instance, where we are being drowned under plastic everywhere we look, in our fields, sides of our roads, on our beaches, in our landfills.
    We have to import 90% of our fuels, with little oil or gas of our own, and a huge growing demand for it.
    Sincerely, CLB
  • Carole Brown on August 06 2013 said:
    What would it cost to purchase the small machine that coverts plastic into oil? Could the average user make their own gasoline to run their vehicle?

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