Polish company has developed a plastic-to-fuel technology. This might be a solution to the waste problem
Globally, there are nearly 5 billion tonnes of plastic waste left unused. A partial solution to the problem could come in the form of a plastic-to-fuel technology. Plastic waste can become a source of fuel as effective as petrol and diesel fuel. A unique technology for its conversion has been developed by a Polish company. As required by a draft EU Directive, large-scale recipients will now have to use biofuels as well, which includes fuels made from plastic.
“The fuel we are producing is basically no different from petrol or diesel fuel. But it does bring some environmental advantages. First because in the manufacturing process we got rid of plastics which pollute the environment, oceans included. If we don’t do something about it, by 2050 we will be seeing more plastics than fish in the oceans. Secondly, as compared to the conventional crude oil, using plastic to produce one litre of fuel reduces carbon dioxide emissions by about 12.5 percent, quite as much as mining for crude oil which is also more emission-conducive, because plastics are already there. And thirdly, with plastic waste being produced locally, we don’t have to import crude oil from the Middle East or Russia, which also adds to reduced carbon dioxide emissions,” Susan Kim-Chomicka, CEO of Handerek Technologies, told the Newseria Innowacje information agency.
The technology devised by Handerek Technologies, a finalist at the national stage of the PowerUp contest, makes it possible to convert plastic waste into liquid fuels with a quality matching that of regular petrol or diesel fuel, for use with vehicles and machinery. During a low-pressure process, the technology turns plastic waste which cannot be recycled any further into fully refined fractions of diesel fuel and petrol.
Not only is this technology cost-effective and not requiring any subsidisation, but it is also self-sufficient energetically and does not generate any unusable waste as a by-product. A kilogram of waste can be turned into a litre of liquid fuel such as the EN590 diesel fuel, the EN228 petrol, and jet fuel. However, this recycled fuel will not be available at petrol stations.
“Even if we do convert the entire plastic stock, the resulting fuel will make up a mere three percent of the global petroleum output. That’s just not enough to be offered at petrol stations. However, the draft version of the EU Fuel Directive contains a provision stating that the biofuel category also covers fuels produced from waste, including plastic. In this situation, large-scale recipients will have to collect some of the fuel back from us, so that they can meet the future EU requirements,” Susan Kim-Chomicka notes.
With such laws in force, waste-to-fuel businesses are standing a chance not only to seize the market but also to bring about viable environmental benefits. As reported by Eurostat, each year Poland produces around 180 m tonnes of waste, adding to the total EU waste output of over 2.5 bn tonnes. In 2014, the Member States processed 2.3 bn tonnes of waste, including that imported to the EU. More than 47 percent underwent waste treatment other than combustion, and 36 percent more was allocated for recovery other than energy recovery or land filling. Still, however, much of this waste is left unused.
“There are nearly 5 billion tonnes of plastic lingering on land. Each year, almost eight million tonnes of plastic waste are dumped into the oceans. If we don't do something about it, our environment will perish. And since we use petroleum anyway, plastic fuels will help us diversify the sources of its origin, helping the environment in the process,” says the expert.
According to analyses by Zion Market Research, with an average annual growth of 4.5 percent, the global biofuel market will reach nearly USD 219 bn in value by 2022.
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