Plastic is probably the most non-green material anyone can mention straight off the top of their heads. But perhaps the damned material can be put to some good, sustainable use after all.
In the United States plastics are made primarily from natural gas. More recently, a growing number of new technologies started to turn non-recycled plastics into crude oil, electricity and other fuels. Many of these technologies are already being implemented on a commercial scale in Europe, Canada and Asia.
One company that promises to turn plastic into energy, and do this cleanly, is JBI's Plastic2Oil. The company emphasizes that its process results in ultra-low sulfur diesel that contains 15 parts per million (ppm), which qualifies it for the label 'clean diesel' since its sulfur content has been reduced by more than 95%.
Patent is still pending on Plastic2Oil's P2O process but in July JBI announced it had entered an agreement with Rock-Tenn to convert mill by-product waste into fuel using Plastic2Oil's trademark technology. The agreement gave JBI exclusive rights to mine plastic from RocTenn's plastic-only monofill sites for several years.
JBI was founded by John Bordynuik, who noticed that plastic waste was growing while working at the Ontario Legislature back in the 1990s. He saw the problem piling up, literally. In the US alone, over 30 million tons of plastic are produced per year and only about seven percent of it is recycled, according to 2009 figures.
"Because of the new "disposable mentality" that came with plastic containers, we now are navigating the fallout of an enormous waste plastic problem, on a global scale. It's complex, it's far-reaching and it's intimately tied to politics and economics", JBI says on its website. Mr Bordynuik recently had the opportunity to present his vision at the TEDxBuffalo conference.