2011-09-01

Co.Exist

Converting Plastic Back To The Oil It Came From

New technologies don't just recycle plastic into new plastic. Instead, they make oil from it. A new plant in Akron, Ohio plans to divert old bottles from landfills and churn out 80,000 barrels a year.

It's one thing to make plastic from petroleum—that's pretty standard. It's another to reverse the process, and refuel your car with old plastic trash.

That's one application for what the city of Akron, Ohio, is planning to do with its brand new facility built by Greenstar Recycling and Vadxx Energy. Vadxx manufactures synthetic crude oil and natural gas by using raw material feedstock from petroleum-based plastics. The process—called thermal depolymerization—can actually create a small domestic oil supply, as well as natural gas. The company is not picky: Feedstocks include auto fluff, e-wastes, scrap tires, recyclable and non-recyclable plastics, synthetic fibers, used industrial solvents, waste oil, and heavy refinery bottom oil. Does it have oil in it? They can make it into fuel.

"Vadxx has figured out how to create the lowest sulfur content crude oil in the world, from a commodity that might otherwise occupy space in landfills," said Jim Garrett Vadxx CEO in a statement.

The Akron project will be one of the first commercial-scale demonstrations of its technology, with customers including energy resellers and petroleum refiners. The Akron facility is set to begin producing crude oil—as much as 80,000 barrels per year—by mid-2012.

For now, only a few cities have set up the technology to divert plastic from landfills, but money is flowing into the sector and new companies are cropping up. Agri-Plas
has deployed the technology to covert dirty and otherwise unusable
plastics from agricultural operations—greenhouse gas covers, tarps, and
nursery waste—into fuel and products.

As long as we're using oil, it looks we might as well find ways to reuse it.

[Image: Flickr user supahgrover]

Reach Michael J. Coren via Twitter or email.

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2 Comments

  • Gerryhermann

    See "Changing World Technologies" same technological method, but strong headwinds from the U.S. government. Was not considered as a viable alternative fuel source and given tax breaks for future development.

    Maybe the current administration sees the light,