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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap 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.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid