Since Truth Seeker Media just finished a post on garbage in the sea – so much of which involves plastics – we thought it would be great to post a story about one way to go about dealing with the problem generated by using so many plastic products in our everyday lives.
Slashdot has been a favorite website of mine for a long time. In fact, it was one of the first sites I was introduced to when getting into internet startups, and I still watch it pretty closely today. It constantly has highly important and intellectual issues, going way beyond just technology.
PK Clean’s Process & Evolution
They recently had a story on about a spin-out company from MIT called PK Clean, which has innovated on a concept of breaking down plastic waste into useful byproducts including oil that can be refined into fuel. The innovation of PK Clean’s system is in it’s continuous use, by utilizing some of the gas produced in the breakdown process as fuel for the system. Their process removes the need for ‘batch processing’ which would require the entire system to shut down and cool down between batches of plastic waste. This saves a lot of energy in the energy that is not lost during that process.
The system runs on the science behind catalytic depolymerization where heat and a catalyst break down plastics into crude oil. 70 – 80% of the product comes out as oil, and 20 – 30% becomes a hydro-carbon gas. PK Clean has developed a way to fuel their system using the gas byproduct. Long term, they want to develop the ability for recycling plant partners to be able to fuel their trucks used to pick up and transport the waste, with refined crude oil from the breakdown process, without the need for the raw product oil to have to go to a refinery.
From Trials to Full-Scale Production
After completing trials in India, PK Clean has partnered with Rocky Mountain Recycling to build their first full-scale plant in Salt Lake City, UT. To the scope and ability that this plant will have, the team had this to say…
“Operating continuously, the plant can convert up to 10 tons of plastic per day into 60 barrels of oil, with zero toxic emissions.”
The Future of Plastic Waste and It’s Potential for Fuel
Plastic waste is such a big environmental issue world wide, that we can only hope PK Clean succeeds, as well with any competitors that come into the game. With an estimated 2 Trillion tons of plastic already in United States Landfills along. that amounts to a LOT of oil. Honestly, I think we can do the Math here, someone check me.
If we took the 2 Trillion tons of waste, divided by 10 (the tons per day), we get 200 Billion. Now multiple that by 60 to get barrels if we broke down all 200 Billion 10 ton batches, and we’d have 120 Trillion barrels of oil (120,000,000,000,000) and this is only inside landfills in the USA.
Implications for Shale Oil
I feel like with all the revisions and bad news from the shale oil industry, plus the long term destruction and consequences of injecting toxic chemicals into groundwater for short lived oil gains, something that cleans up a problem that we already have, should be getting more attention and favor from the government and private investors.
Production Costs and Where to Go from Here
It gets better. Production costs amount to $35 per barrel and PK is already selling to nearby refineries for around $100! PK clean intends to partner with other recyclers globally to start making a dent in the worlds plastic pollution problem. I for one hope they find success and perhaps move quickly into collaboration to help filter plastic waste from the oceans. I could imagine a great partnership between PK Clean and The Ocean Cleanup, which is the current state of the original filtration array by Boyan Slat.