^ RT7000: Residual Waste Plastic Conversion
^ Image Courtesy of Recycling Technologies at http://recyclingtechnologies.co.uk/composer/recycling-technologies-services/
PlaxxTM: Rags to Riches
Plastic-infested landfills make good claim to be the living hell on earth. The unbearable stench announces their presence for miles around even as the piles of garbage present an ugly sight you can certainly do without. And we are not even talking of the pollution and diseases they unleash.
But then, plastic has become an integral element of our present-day, on-the-go lifestyles. Who among us does not use carry bags, water bottles, soda cans and other such plastic items?
Now, the chemicals that make up plastic do not breakdown easily. They remain intact for decades, even centuries. And while they are around, they pollute the groundwater under the land that holds them while making it infertile. Burning to eliminate them ends up contaminating air.
Biodegradable plastic is a possible solution. Corn however is an important raw material for making it. And to replace all conventional plastic with biodegradable one requires 715.5 million tons of corn. This when Global Warming has already dented farm productivity substantially.
Another potential solution is to limit the use of plastic through awareness and policy interventions. But these measures take their own time to mature. It is in this context that PlaxxTM, a fuel made from mixed plastic waste comes to the fore.
Technical & Other Details
Recycling Technologies, a waste-to-energy specialist company, developed PlaxxTM. Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) and Recycling Technologies are evaluating if PlaxxTM can replace heavy fuel oil (HFO) as ship fuel.
Innovate UK and ESPRC are funding the research led by BRL Associate Professor Farid Dailami. Crapper and Sons Landfill, Swindon Borough Council, and an international marine insurer are supporting the research.
Extraction and consumption of HFO pollutes the environment although technology has mitigated such pollution. BRL is a partnership between the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and the University of Bristol.
PlaxxTM is soft wax at room temperature but becomes a low-viscosity liquid at 700C. Researchers are comparing PlaxxTM with HFO on the basis of following criteria:
- engine wear
- engine performance
Researchers will check the performance of PlaxxTM in different test conditions. They will also develop and deploy software tools to monitor the performance of PlaxxTM on these three criteria.
Made by de-polymerizing plastic, PlaxxTM is a mixture of monomers – a composition similar to crude oil. But the percentage of sulphur as well as organic and inorganic contaminants in PlaxxTM is negligible.
International regulations prohibit ships from using fuel with more than 0.1% sulphur (by mass) when sailing in Emission Control Areas (ECAs) also referred as Sulphur ECAs. The low-sulphur feature of PlaxxTM makes it invaluable.
Most of the plastic waste at present is the mixed, contaminated, and laminated waste from industrial, commercial, and municipal sources. Conventional and mechanical plastic waste recycling mechanisms are incapable of dealing with it.
Recycling Technologies uses its flagship machine named RT7000 to affect this conversion. The machine offers an eco-friendly solution for converting residual plastic waste to fuel at the least possible cost.
With modular construction, the RT7000 is easily and quickly transported. The company has patented the machine in the UK and filed applications for international patents.
PlaxxTM can be further refined and used as an input for making plastic. As such, it represents an economical method to convert the huge challenge of plastic waste into a wonderful opportunity.
Although the global shipping industry will be the prime beneficiary of the project, waste treatment companies, packaging manufacturers, and local waste-handling bodies also stand to gain significantly.
PlaxxTM will also benefit the taxpayers in the final analysis simply because it will slash the cost of waste management. More than that, it will add to the revenues of the local bodies who will be able to sell waste.
The Menace of Plastic & Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO)
Our hectic lifestyles create the need for the use of huge amounts of plastic. Durable, inexpensive, and useful, plastic contains chemicals that do not degrade quickly. These affect plant and animal life when they:
- chemically interrupt with biological functions
- are directly ingested
- get entangled
Overuse of plastic, fishing nets, and flawed garbage disposal techniques are the sources of plastic that enters the food chain. Recycling is a quick and effective solution as compared to restricting plastic use through regulations and awareness.
Bunker fuels i.e. fuels used by ships are broadly of two types – distillate and residual. Commonly used bunker fuels include:
- Marine Gas Oil (MGO)
- Marine Diesel Oil (MDO)
- Intermediate Fuel Oil (IFO)
- Medium Fuel Oil (MFO)
- Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO)
Residual fuels are made from the residue that is left behind after the lighter components of crude oil are separated by distillation. They therefore contain greater percentage of sulphur, nitrogen, and ash. And HFO is a residual fuel.
Typical composition of some bunker fuels (note the percentage composition of sulphur):
When burnt, 1 kg of HFO (say 85% carbon, 11% hydrogen, and 4% sulphur) will consume 15.41 kg of air (3.23 kg of oxygen) and produce 3.12 kg of carbon dioxide, 990 grams of water, and 80 grams of sulphur dioxide.
Now, sulphur dioxide can cause acid rains. It can also result in numerous respiratory diseases, chest tightness, wheezing, and shortness of breath while escalating cardiovascular conditions.
Extraction, storage, and transport of crude oil, all hold the potential to damage the environment. Technological advances have mitigated these effects though.
Following are some of the ecological consequences of crude extraction:
- Extraction requires the use of large quantities of water and possibly harmful chemicals. It also generates tons of wastewater. This can cause water shortage while also contaminating underground aquifers
- Earthquakes can result from the use of underwater injection techniques to dispose wastewater. Technicians typically dispose wastewater into aquifers holding salty, non-potable water
- Drilling oil wells requires clearing vegetation in the area
- Seismic methods to for underwater oil exploration can harm marine animals
- Oil spills often occur during the extraction or transport of crude. The Deepwater Horizon Spill of 2010 followed an explosion and released some 9 million barrels into the Gulf of Mexico
Satellites, 3-D and 4-D seismic technologies, remote sensing techniques, and global positioning system have improved the accuracy of exploration so that technicians now need to drill fewer exploratory wells.
Drilling rigs of the present day are smaller and mobile. This again reduces the number of wells you need to drill to establish an oil field. You therefore need to clear lesser vegetation or disturb lesser underwater area to set up an oil field.
Pollution starts when wastes accumulate faster than they can be broken down by the environment. In the context of conventional, non-biodegradable pollution assumes disastrous dimensions because it just does not break down. PlaxxTM offers a cost effective way of handling the issue.
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