Recycled bottles quench thirst for oil


Publication: Springwise.com - 100+ articles

U.S. company Envion¬†are¬†modern-day alchemists. They’re not turning rocks into gold, but close enough – the company has developed a system to produce oil from waste plastic. With oil currently at almost $80 a barrel and a world energy crisis looming, that’s the Midas touch. Envion, founded in 2004, are naturally keeping the lid on details of their proprietary technology, but they do reveal that it involves extracting the hydrocarbons from plastic, and that low temperature thermal cracking in a vacuum is part of the process.

According to the company’s website, the Envion Oil Generator is both efficient and environmentally sensitive, producing a net gain in energy recaptured, with vent gas generating electricity to drive the unit. The machine accepts most types of waste plastic, without the need for pre-sorting or cleaning, including that currently sitting in landfill sites. Given that in the U.S. only 4% of the 48 million tons of plastic waste produced every year gets recycled (according to BioCycle), there’s plenty of available fodder. A single oil generator can convert 10,000 tons of plastic into more than 50,000 barrels of oil a year, at a cost of $17 per ton. Given the cost of the alternatives – landfill at $70-$200 per ton, and recycling at $50-$150 per ton – Envion looks set to clean up.

Although some will challenge that more oil consumption is not what the planet needs, Envion have come up with a commercially attractive solution to the problem of plastic waste – and if anything gets things done it’s commercially attractive solutions. This one will particularly appeal to local authorities for whom waste management is an increasing struggle. Envion is also developing an application of the technology to convert car tyres into oil. Australia’s Molectra Technology do that with microwaves – I wonder if that’s what Envion are up to…