End Markets Processes

Positive Outlook for Plastics to Fuel Technology in U.S.

The American Chemistry Council has published a study conducted by environmental consultancy, 4R Sustainability Inc., on increasing opportunities for plastics to fuel “conversion technologies” in the U.S.


In 2009, the United States recycled over 4 billion pounds (1.8 million tonnes) of plastics. The report demonstrates the ability to recycle and recover plastics through technologies including those that convert plastics into oil and other fuels. Many of these technologies are already being implemented on a commercial scale in Europe and Asia.

The American Chemistry Council funded the study, ‘Conversion Technology: A Complement to Plastics Recycling’, to examine available technologies, feedstocks, growth models for technology abroad and in North America, opportunities and barriers, and outlook for growth in the United States.

According to the study, although in the U.S. plastics are primarily manufactured from natural gas, these technologies are effectively turning non-recycled plastics into crude oil and other fuels, and diverting this potentially valuable material from landfills.

The report claims that Plastics to Fuel technologies do not compete with recyclers for material. Rather, they make use of non recycled plastics – and in many cases run more efficiently with non recycled plastics – which they convert into crude oil and other types of fuels.

The report finds that a number of policy strategies can be employed to help mitigate the barriers to commercialisation of Plastic to Fuel (PtF) technologies in the U.S.

These include creating aggressive recovery targets for plastics, making PtF installations eligible for federal and state tax credits, creating specific demand for PtF products and clearly defining PtF technology as separate from other conversion technologies that treat the entire MSW stream. A number of these policy strategies have been successfully employed abroad.

The report also finds that many of the technology manufacturers in North America that have been operating pilot-scale facilities are hopeful that they will be able to secure investment for a commercial-scale facility in the next two or three years, if not sooner.

Furthermore, a number of firms operating commercial facilities in other parts of the world have also expressed strong interest in bringing this technology to the U.S. Two firms with functional systems in place abroad have had serious discussions with state and local agencies about potential economic incentives that might be available for constructing a facility.

The outlook for commercialisation of PtF technology in North America in the near-term looks strong, as three operators of foreign systems are actively looking to site a facility in the U.S. and at least one U.S. PtF technology manufacturer has reported three systems slated for installation.

Other PtF manufacturers reported being in active negotiations with potential municipal and private partners.

“As the United States seeks cost-effective sources of alternative energy, the potential to recover non-recycled plastics is enormous,” said Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for the American Chemistry Council. “According to scientists at Columbia University, if the United States were to recover the energy from our non recycled plastics, this material could be converted into enough energy to fuel the equivalent of 6 million cars annually.”


Source : www.waste-management-world.com

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