Turning Plastic Back into Oil

In a twist of sustainability meets alchemy, Washington, DC-based Envion can turn  plastic back into oil, producing a net gain in energy recaptured. The Envion Oil Generator™ uses proprietary low temperature thermal cracking technology to transform almost any type of plastic (without presorting or cleaning) into light oil, medium oil, and emulsified oil.

According to their website this is possible because as a derivative of petroleum, plastic has a high level of stored energy content. Apparently the energy stored is almost equal to gasoline and is 51% higher than the energy stored in coal.

Turns out when discarded plastic bottles and such end up in landfills they are not only only cluttering up our planet, but this high level of energy literally “goes to waste.”

As you know from Watershed, even though recycling programs are in place, 80% of the water bottles we drink still end up in landfills. Envion estimates that “In 2007 the United States produced 58 million tons of plastic, from which 48 million tons of plastic waste entered the nation’s waste stream.”

Envion claims that each of their generators can convert 10,000 tons of plastic into more than 50,000 barrels of oil a year, at a cost of $17 per ton. Compared to the cost of storing that same plastic in a landfill ($70–$200 per ton), or recycling ($50–$150 per ton) it’s seems that Envion’s process is just smart business.

Plus, they have their sights set for advancing the efficiency of their technology and the range of applications including applying the same system to vehicle tires.

Of course I’m not an advocate of using and producing more plastic, but for those items where plastic is necessary, this could become just the link we need in creating a more sustainable process.