Report Touts Viability of Plastics-to-fuel Technology

A report released June 8 hopes to draw attention — and funding — to the growing plastics-to-fuel sector. And its authors hope an accompanying free tool for aspiring pyrolysis developers will help the nascent industry grow.

The 2015 Plastics-to-Fuel Developers Guide and Cost Estimating Tool for Prospective Project Developers, from the American Chemistry Council and Ocean Recovery Alliance (ORA), were designed to help potential investors, developers and community leaders determine if plastics-to-fuel is a good fit for meeting local waste management needs and demand for the relevant commodities.

plastics-to-fuel technology

“We are excited to introduce these new tools,” said Doug Woodring, director and co-founder of ORA and the driving force behind the annual international Plasticity Forum, where the report and tool were introduced.

“Sustainable materials management is largely a local issue, but one with important global implications. Our goal is to give communities and government leaders the tools they need to make good decisions that meet local needs. These new technologies can help mitigate the flow of plastic resources into our communities, waters and the ocean,” Woodring said.

The free tools provide, for the first time, an exploration of available commercial technologies, operational facilities and things to consider when developing a business plan, according to ACC and ORA.

“Not intended as a replacement to traditional recycling practices, but given the large percentage of plastic waste that bypass recycling programs for reasons such as lack of infrastructure, capacity, and technology, [plastics-to-fuel] is becoming a viable addition to a jurisdictions mix of municipal solid waste management strategies,” the report says.

“By creating demand for end-of-life plastics, plastics-to-fuel technologies can not only help address this global challenge and mitigate the flow of plastic to the ocean, but can also create jobs and generate an alternative local fuel source that can serve as a substitute to fossil fuel derived crude oil.”

The Plasticity Forum, held June 8-9 in Cascais, Portugal, aims to bring together leaders to collaborate to help scale up some of the plastics waste solutions now coming to market, and to showcase sustainable solutions and market opportunities for transforming all types of plastic into a valuable resource.

While the 2015 Plastics-to-Fuel Developers Guide focused on several U.S. pyrolysis sites and is aimed at attracting more American investment in plastics-to-fuel technologies, Europe is outpacing the U.S. in plastics recovery. According to a 29-country survey by the Brussels-based trade group PlasticsEurope, about 36 percent of post-consumer plastics in Europe currently go to energy recovery facilities while 26 percent are recycled and 38 percent end up in landfills.

“The trend is in a good direction but that is not fast enough,” Michel Loubry, regional director for PlasticsEurope, said June 8 at Plasticity. “We have all the means, in Europe, in place to achieve zero plastics to landfill by 2025,” Loubry said.

Recycling is the preferred option but that is not always the best economic or environmental choice, he said. Though plastics to fuel is not yet a solution easily implemented for plastic waste, the forum organizers and report authors hope the new tool will help shrink some of the barriers to entry for plastics-to-fuel investors and developers.

“Modern plastics-to-fuel technologies are a critical tool to recapture the value in materials that otherwise would be destined for landfill,” said Steve Russell, vice president of plastics at Washington-based ACC.

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