A sustainable vision for recycling hydrocarbons from plastics

Recycling hydrocarbons from plastics

Recycling hydrocarbons from plastics

Recycling hydrocarbons from discarded plastics into energy or new products  would be an end-of-life scenario that could benefit everyone.

Thinking out loud: “What if all the discarded plastics that were sent to landfills were biodegradable and became a source of renewable energy?”

It’s estimated there’s somewhere between 250 to 300 million tons of plastics manufactured every year. 10% of plastics get recycled; the rest of it–millions and millions of tons–goes to landfills, or ends up as litter in the environment.

Imagine garbage trucks in communities around the world powered with renewable natural gas derived in part by no-cost biodegraded plastics from managed landfills. ”

Imagine garbage trucks in communities around the world powered with renewable natural gas derived in part by no-cost biodegraded plastics from managed landfills. 

Despite the best intentions, only 10% of plastics get recycled. Practically everything else ends up in landfills or in the environment; millions and millions of tons of plastics every year.

The fact is that anaerobically biodegraded garbage becomes carbon dioxide and methane gas, so if municipalities–and we, the people who live in them–desire to be good, socially responsible citizens, and do our part to reduce carbon emissions, it’s important that our cities, towns, and hamlets implement modern landfills, whether public or private, to capture these gases in landfill gas-to-energy programs.

Most modern landfill environments are either moist or actively managed; which means that the landfills accelerate the biodegradation process to produce energy in the form of CO2 and methane, which can then be used to produce renewable natural gas (RNG) energy to propel biodiesel engines or other such uses.

Instead of banning bags we should be biodegrading them

With this new scenario, instead of banning bags, communities would encourage merchants to use them. The value of the energy from the biodegradable bags and other biodegradable plastics could quite possibly pay for upgrading the landfill technologies, and create new jobs for the people who manage them.

Customers would enjoy the convenience of low-cost plastic bags and bottles. Merchants would enjoy a low-cost service that is eco-friendly and sustainable. The plastics industry would continue to operate with a minimally disruptive technology and municipalities would expand a free source of renewable energy.



Why ECM’s biodegradable* plastic technology is preferable to the oxo-degradable technologies

First things first, do not allow the oxo-degradable people call themselves “oxo-biodegradable” or in anyway refer to their technology as leading to the biodegradability of plastic.  They have never shown any biodegradation of the plastics with their additives under anything like realistic conditions.  They always resort to preconditioning the plastics by putting them in an oven for a number of weeks; this will not occur in the real world therefore whatever happens thereafter is unrealistic and unproven.

Now that we understand that oxo-degradable technologies have nothing to do with biodegradability what are the bioproducts of the plastics degradation?  Smaller pieces of plastics.  This can be a problem environmentally.  These small pieces of plastic can build up in the soil where oxo-degradables are used as agricultural films negatively effecting the soil’s fertility and its moisture retension capability.  The small plastic pieces will also be consumed by creatures both on land and in the water and will accumulate in their digestive systems without being broken down further.

Oxo-degradable technologies have nothing to do with biodegradablity. ”

Oxo-degradable technologies have nothing to do with biodegradablity. 

The oxo-degradable technologies have been around for longer than our biodegradable technology and, on the whole, have proved quite unsatisfactory for most applications because of a number of reasons, one of which is that the plastic does not have good storage and usability characteristics. Plastic manufactured using the oxo technology is photodegradable and thermally breaks down as well. In normal usage for customers this means that, unless they were very careful in their storage of the plastic products, when they go to make use of it may crumble apart in their hands. People do not like to pay good money for a product only to find that it is worthless when they want to use it and nothing could be less environmentally friendly.

With the oxo-degradable technology, the degradation process is initiated during the extrusion or forming of the plastic product. The only way they get any shelf life or period of usefulness out of the product is through special inhibitors– antioxidants. This is why they will have to ask the manufacturer all about their resin formulations before they will sell the product to them because they need to see the amount of antioxidants that are present in the formulae. The antioxidants are overridden by light and heat.  Under perfect storage conditions, an oxo-degradable trash bag may have only a year and a half of shelf life as its maximum but if it gets a little too warm or is exposed to a little too much light it will degrade to uselessness within a few weeks.

Plastic products made with our biodegradable* additive technology will last as long as the same plastic product without our additives would last in storage or use conditions. The initiation of the degradation process does not begin until the plastic product is in constant contact with the biota that are actively biodegrading other material. Therefore, a store bag stored in some company’s warehouse where the temperatures get a little high on certain afternoons will not start degrading. If the customer reaches for the bag this year or three or four years later the bag will still be there ready for its normal use.

Our additives can be used whether the plastic product is extruded as blown film, cast film, injection molded pieces, blow molded bottles or rotomolded objects. A HDPE blow molded bottle containing milk, oil or shampoo will last on the shelf and at the consumer’s house just as long as they currently do with no special conditions required. When any of these types of products are eventually disposed of, the plastic will fully biodegrade* just as a stick or branch from a tree fully biodegrades when it is buried in soil.

Another big difference between the two technologies is that our technology can work well with nearly any recycling program while oxo-degradable technologies cannot. Plastic products made with our additives can be recycled whether one is talking of manufacturers regrinding scrap or in nearly all post-consumer programs. What a great combination!  A manufacturer can use virgin resin or recycled resins with our additives when they make their products. If the product is then recycled itself, fine, just add enough of our additives to be sure to have at least a one percent load in the new product, if the product is disposed of in a landfill, compost heap, buried in the ground or littered, it will fully biodegrade*.

Another difference is that the oxo-degradable technologies are all using some heavy metal salts which are a concern to many while our technology does not use any heavy metals.

I believe that in the long run your customers and prospects will agree that our technology for making plastics biodegradable* will work out better for nearly all of their applications and that they will pleased that you sold them the least expensive, most widely applicable, proven technology for producing biodegradable* plastic products in the world – ECM MasterBatch Pellets.

* 49.28% biodegradation in 900 days under non-typical conditions. No evidence of further biodegradation.