Today, plastic touches every aspect of our daily lives in some way. It keeps the foods we eat fresh, the medicines we take secure, and the homes we live in safe. As a result of our dependence on plastic, consumption is increasing at a rapid pace. In fact, the global culture of consumerism relies upon plastic for its very existence. The overall plastic market is growing at a rate of more than 7% per year. Over 250 million metric tons (over 550 billion pounds) of plastic was produced globally in 2006.
After traditional recycling in the U.S., 94%-96% of plastics are landfilled or incinerated. Approximately 25,000,000 tons of waste plastic was deposited into landfills in the United States during each of the last several years. This amount of plastic waste represents a potential product volume of approximately 29.5 billion gallons of petrochemical fuels and other energy products per year.
Sources of waste plastic include households, waste management companies, material recovery facilities (MRF), plastics recyclers/converters, commercial/industrial plastic waste generators and municipalities. All plastics collected through curbside recycling programs are technically capable of being recycled; however, most municipalities and processors do not recycle plastic grades #3-#7. Several methods are used to recycle plastics, but in all cases, only high value plastics are recovered; other plastics, #3-#7, are normally sent to a landfill or incineration facility for disposal.
The system is designed to handle the heterogeneity and contamination seen in waste plastic, which is the system feedstock. Currently, global recycling markets primarily desire single stream plastic resin types #1 and #2, while resin types #3-#7 are being landfilled at a significant cost. There are no limitations on the plastic resin types, the system can process all seven, and the plastics can be mixed, which eliminates sorting. Sorting is currently required in other systems. In addition, dirt, fiber, food, metal, glass or any other type of contaminant that may be present in the feedstock is acceptable, eliminating the need to clean the waste plastic prior to processing. The output, or off-take, from the process is a consistent, homogeneous and high-value petroleum product.
Energy startup GenAgain eyes oil from trash
Renewable energy startup GenAgain Technologies Inc. is making a bold proposition: Convert plastic trash into liquid gold.
The company plans to invest up to $75 million in Atlanta and create as many as 200 jobs as it builds several area plants to convert plastic waste into synthetic crude oil.
"It's a combination of being an environmentally friendly technology, producing an alternative energy," Curtis said.
The technology that GenAgain will use is developed by Agilyx Corp., a Portland, Ore., area-based renewable energy company. Agilyx is backed by leading greentech venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Waste Management Inc., and Total Energy Ventures International.