Study examines non-recycled plastics conversion tech

Study examines non-recycled plastics conversion tech

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

A study finds considerable energy and greenhouse gas savings using various conversion technologies for non-recyclable plastics instead of landfilling them — and finds those same technologies are close to being commercially viable.

The study, "Environmental and Economic Analysis of Emerging Plastics Conversion Technologies," prepared by research firm RTI International and funded by the American Chemistry Council, examines the efficacy of two types of conversion technologies: gasification, which accepts all municipal solid waste (MSW), including non-recycled plastics; and pyrolysis, which solely manages non-recycled plastics.

In the report, RTI looks at both technologies that have non-recycled plastics as a key feedstock, though some of the facilities it profiles accept such varied materials as "MSW, refuse‚Äźderived fuel (RDF) from sorted MSW, woody wastes from construction and demolition, used telephone poles, and other wastes from industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI)."

The above-described facility, run by the firm Enerkem, operates in Edmonton, Alberta, which is currently diverting 60 percent of its residential waste stream from landfill through recycling and composting efforts.

One of the key findings of the study is how close many of the technologies are to commercial viability, within five to 10 years for most. Plastics-to-oil technologies were found to be "generally closer to full scale commercialization" than the MSW gasification plants.

"The study's authors conclude that emerging technologies designed to recover energy from waste can harness a significant and largely untapped source of alternative energy that can help power America's homes, cars and businesses, while also helping to reduce some carbon emissions when compared with landfilling," said Keith Christman, managing director of plastics markets for the American Chemistry Council. "When combined with strong recycling programs, these energy recovery technologies could help communities increase landfill diversion and cost savings over traditional waste management methods," Christman said.

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