News / Science & Technology

Plastic Could Fuel US Move Away from Foreign Oil

CEO John Bordynuik with a jar of fuel produced from waste plastic in JBI’s factory in Niagara Falls, New York. (VOA/D. Robison)
CEO John Bordynuik with a jar of fuel produced from waste plastic in JBI’s factory in Niagara Falls, New York. (VOA/D. Robison)
The next big thing in fuel could come from repurposed plastic. However, only seven percent of plastic waste in the United States is recycled each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

A company in Niagara Falls, New York, is working to increase that percentage, with an eye toward reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil.

Plastic-eating monster

It's a machine known as the “plastic-eating monster.”

Every hour, thousands of kilograms of shredded milk jugs, water bottles, and grocery bags tumble into its large combustion chamber. The waste plastic comes from landfills and dumps across the United States.

John Bordyniuk, who runs his namesake company, JBI, Inc., invented the new process for converting plastic into a range of fuels.
A load of shredded plastic gas tanks, removed from junkyard automobiles, awaits its turn with the plastic-eating monster. (VOA/D. Robison)A load of shredded plastic gas tanks, removed from junkyard automobiles, awaits its turn with the plastic-eating monster. (VOA/D. Robison)
x
A load of shredded plastic gas tanks, removed from junkyard automobiles, awaits its turn with the plastic-eating monster. (VOA/D. Robison)
A load of shredded plastic gas tanks, removed from junkyard automobiles, awaits its turn with the plastic-eating monster. (VOA/D. Robison)

First, many different kinds of unwashed plastics are melted together.

“The viscosity looks like milk," Bordyniuk says. "Almost like when you’re heating milk on the stove. Looks exactly like that, except it’s black.”

Bordyniuk uses a patented catalyst to vaporize the inky fluid and reduce the plastic to its most basic elements.

“Plastics are just long hydrocarbon chains," he says. "What we’re doing is re-forming them into links and chains that we want so they have a high fuel value.”

The system powers itself, with eight percent of the plastic waste running the process. Bordyniuk hired outside testers who concluded that nearly 86 percent of what goes in comes out as fuel.

Several grades of fuel

At the other end of the plastic eating machine, JBI executive Bob Molodynia looks on while a stream of thin brown liquid pours into an oil barrel.

“You could tap this right now and it’s ready to go,"  Molodynia says. "That’s a number six fuel, that’s what a lot of what US Steel uses, a lot of major companies, that’s what they pay the big bucks for, right there.”
Many different types of unwashed plastic waste are melted together in a combustion chamber. Here, John Bordynuik, CEO of JBI, Inc., pulls a sample to determine what kind of fuel he wants to produce. (VOA/D. Robison)Many different types of unwashed plastic waste are melted together in a combustion chamber. Here, John Bordynuik, CEO of JBI, Inc., pulls a sample to determine what kind of fuel he wants to produce. (VOA/D. Robison)
x
Many different types of unwashed plastic waste are melted together in a combustion chamber. Here, John Bordynuik, CEO of JBI, Inc., pulls a sample to determine what kind of fuel he wants to produce. (VOA/D. Robison)
Many different types of unwashed plastic waste are melted together in a combustion chamber. Here, John Bordynuik, CEO of JBI, Inc., pulls a sample to determine what kind of fuel he wants to produce. (VOA/D. Robison)

JBI creates several grades of fuel for a variety of industries and sells them for up to $100 a barrel through national distributors. Each barrel costs about $10 to produce and JBI produces several thousand liters of oil a day.

The company has signed deals to set up operations next to large plastic waste dumps.

Bordyniuk believes plastics will become a significant source of domestic fuel that reduces the country’s dependence on foreign oil, while at the same time reducing the amount of plastic waste sitting in the country’s landfills.

Green process?

But just how “green” is this process when it produces fuels that pollute just like any other?

“Maybe the sequestration of carbon into a plastic bottle dumped in a landfill is better than converting it to liquid fuels and releasing, mobilizing a whole lot of carbon,” says Allen Hershkowitz, senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

He says plastic-to-oil technology is still new and evolving, and there’s not enough data to determine whether or not the process is friendly to the environment.

And the jury’s still out on whether converting plastic to oil can even be considered “recycling.” So says Carson Maxted with Resource Recycling, the plastic recycling industry’s trade journal.

A handful of plastic-to-oil companies have cropped up in the past decade, each with its own method. Maxted says JBI is among the budding industry’s top tier partly because the company does something few other firms have been able, or willing, to do: utilize virtually all types of plastics

"They’re getting value from something that would otherwise go to the landfill, the plastics that are not easily recycled, they’re of low quality or of mixed plastic types, or that they’re dirty," Maxted says. "Things that wouldn’t be accepted into a recycler.”

And since there’s no lack of plastic waste or demand for oil, Maxted says JBI’s recycling technology has the potential to transform both industries.

You May Like

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: TERRY OKOMOR from: Nigeria
October 31, 2012 7:55 AM
Energy cost/product is highly efficient here, kind of cool.
should be supported

by: John
October 31, 2012 2:11 AM
Sounds like recycling to me. Must admit I prefer the US Navy's programme to make jet fuel from CO2 and hydrogen extracted from seawater though. Still, you do need a nuke or some other external source of energy to synthesise the fuel.

by: Barrie from: Calgary, Alberta
October 30, 2012 7:32 PM
It is unfortunate that every technological advance seems to bring out dissenters. Mr. Bordyniuk is experiencing the same attitudes as did Marconi, who was sent to an insane asylum when he publicized his discovery of wireless communication. It almost smells like some of the naysayers are afraid of losing their standing in either the plastics or the recycling industries.Certainly, testing and monitoring of the process and products are necessary, but the initiative, even if it turns out to be sufficiently flawed that it is unusable in large volume, should spur further research which will, I am sure, in one or more processes which can pass all the tests for commercial and environmental success.

Just the use of all kinds of plastics, especially being able to eschew the need to clean the input materials, is a major step forward, as much of the cost of collecting used materials has been the cleaning and sorting of the different grades of plastics.
It just occurred to me that the posting of grades on containers might be discontinued if sorting were to be unnecessary, but the types of plastics are important for other reasons (I am not technically competent to try to explain them, though).

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More