More and more Americans are recycling the plastic, paper and metal garbage. The plastic collected is largely used to create other plastic products and even polyester thread used for fabric and clothing. Paper waste is turned back into paper pulp and used for other paper products, especially cardboard. The metal garbage is sorted out by type of metal, ground up, melted and used to create new metal products.
Yet our landfills and oceans are still being inundated with plastic, paper and metal garbage. In time, the paper products will break down and the metals will rust, but many of the plastic items will sit for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years looking just like it does today, only dirtier. Cities, counties and states have been trying to do something to change the growing problem of things like plastic garbage, but few of them seem to be looking at it as one of America’s leading sources of oil.
To begin with, plastic is made from oil. As the oil is processed into plastics, varying amounts of sulfur and carbon dioxide are released. In some countries, these pollutants are released into the atmosphere. The plastics are then used and millions of tons are thrown away and never gets recycled. In the US alone, around 600 billion pounds of plastic products are produced each year. Half of that is for one time use products such as soda and food containers.
So what if you learned that 300 billion pounds of plastic garbage could be converted into 36 billion gallons of oil? Not only can that oil be easily refined into gasoline, diesel and kerosene with very little sulfur emissions.
The technology is out there as shown in this video. Note the video is not in English, but it provides English subtitles and I strongly encourage you to read them.
There are companies like Plastic2Oil that are trying to take this technology to the commercial level. However, some critics, like one I found on Snopes said that the process is too costly, requiring too much energy to produce the heat required to melt and boil the plastics. This person argues that the electricity used is produced by fossil fuels, perhaps some by nuclear or hydroelectric plants.
But what if plastic conversion plants were built near every major city and that they use a combination of solar, geothermic and wind as their main energy sources? Or what if they used the energy produced by the incineration of other trash? Some landfills are already converting garbage into methane gas which could then be used to produce the energy required to help boil the plastic products.
The technology is there and I believe it can be done efficiently and affordably. The question is why isn’t this technology being utilized?