Winning Energy from Plastic Waste
Plastic is one of the most problematic materials used by our society because it is often made from toxic materials known to cause diseases or affect our hormonal balance. It is also very hard and energy consuming to recycle, because it takes lifetimes to degrade, which poses the greatest problem of all because it is literally everywhere. From clothes, furniture, electronic devices, and cars to food packaging, sanitary products, and medical facilities - they are all at least partly made of plastics. Just walking through your house and taking a look around will leave you shocked about how much plastic you actually use every single day.
Upon realizing this we also have to admit that in our modern society no matter how much we try to stay away from using plastic, so many things are made from it that we just can’t completely avoid buying and using it. So what should we do with all the waste that comes from plastic? “Recycling” is the big word here. The energy saved by producing a new plastic bottle from recycling material compared to producing one from fresh material is almost 70%, or enough to light a 60-watt light bulb for six hours. By making sure you recycle all of the plastic products you use, you help regain as much energy as possible from your non-avoidable plastic waste.
Aside from recycling plastic to make new products and save on energy, there are also projects aimed at turning plastic into new energy sources. Plastic is made from crude oil - the very same raw material from which fuel is made. Therefore, some scientists have made it their goal to turn waste plastic back into crude oil so it can be reused for powering engines or burned in heating. Using this method, waste plastic cannot only be put to actual use, but it can also help save the scarce crude oil resources left on Earth. The first plant to use this procedure, called “Syntrol Thermolysis,” was established in Switzerland in 2005 and can turn 100g of plastic waste into 85ml of usable oil. Using Syntrol Thermolysis, scientists also plan to mine existent landfills and turn their contents from waste taking up space and leaking toxic substances into even more fuel and heating oil.
Renusol is another great project; however, it doesn’t turn the actual plastic into a new energy source, but uses it to create one. Renusol America uses up to 100% recycled plastic to produce bases for solar panels that create clean, sustainable energy. The bases made from recycled plastic perform just as well as those made from virgin material, but using them saves on a lot of money and helps to avoid even more plastic waste that otherwise would someday have to be taken care of.
To sum it up, even though we might not (yet) be able to live a life without the use of plastic, by putting our focus on recycling it and putting it to energy-efficient use, we can at least help reduce the damage it does to our environment. Putting plastic waste into recycling boxes only takes a few seconds for you, but not doing so will harm our planet for ages to come.
To learn more about plastic, what it does to our Earth and what projects there are to replace it with environment-friendly, natural alternatives, you can watch the video below, called “Addicted to Plastic” by Ian Connacher: