New invention can turn your plastic bags into fuel at home

Feb 18, 2011 by Katie Gatto weblog

(PhysOrg.com) -- Plastic bags help you carry your groceries home, they make excellent liners for smaller-sized trash cans, and now they can help you to heat your home. A Japanese inventor has found a way to convert plastic grocery bags, bottles and caps into usable petroleum.

Plastic bags are, of course, made from petroleum to begin with, but it is not the same kind of that is used in fuel. In order to turn home waste into home power the machine heats up the waste plastic and traps the vapors created in a system of pipes and water chambers. Finally, the machine condenses the vapors into , that can be used for heating on the home level.

This is not the first device of this kind. A large power plant which is located just outside of Washington, D.C., is currently testing a similar process for use on the community level. This is simply the first device of this kind that is meant for use on a single-home scale.

The machines conversion process can turn two pounds of plastic into one quart of oil, using only one kilowatt-hour of energy. The crude oil produced can then either be used in a power generator or be further refined into , though one would need a second machine to complete the refining process and create gasoline.

Many home users will be deterred by the initial cost, since the machine currently runs about $10,000. The developer hopes that the cost will be reduced as the demand for the device increases. The device is named the carbon-negative system and it is being sold by the Blest Corporation.

Explore further: A platform to help consumers achieve sustainable energy consumption

More information: www.blest.co.jp/seihin-english.html

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User comments : 26

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GSwift7
3 / 5 (12) Feb 18, 2011
This sounds really stupid. Take a look at this breakdown:

Their web site says that the machine can convert 1kg/time (which I assume means 1kg/hr, since the other machines on the page are in kg/hr). That equates to about 2.2 lbs of plastic per hour. That should yield (optimally) .275 gal/hr. Heating oil is really high now ($3.59/gallon), so the machine makes $0.98725 per hour. Subtract $0.11 per kilowatt in electricity, makes $0.88/hr (rounded). To pay for a $10k machine at that rate would take 11,364 hours (1.3 years of continuous operation) and 25,000 lbs of plastic, and that's just get out of negative cost. That is assuming the machine produces high $ oil, but I think it needs further refining to get home heating quality oil like the type I priced above. That would make the break even numbers even longer, but I don't have the exact figures for that.

Look up Thermal depolymerization on wiki for more info.
holoman
1.5 / 5 (13) Feb 18, 2011
Can you say toxic waste !! Air pollution !
GSwift7
3.1 / 5 (15) Feb 18, 2011
No, that's actually not a problem in this case. It appears that as long as you feed in clean feedstock of the right types, you should only get a few gasses (16%), which the machine burns with a built-in burner, oil (70%), water (8%) and a little bit of carbon soot (about 5% I think).

It may not be economical, but it actually isn't bad as far as environmental outcome. I would worry about people having this thing in their home though. I am having visions of flames and fire trucks and people crying. Most people can't even handle changing the air filters in their AC/Heating returns. Imagine asking them to maintain a machine like this. Not a good idea.
Quantum_Conundrum
2.3 / 5 (16) Feb 18, 2011
Gswift7:

People used oil lamps for millenia. Not everyone is incompetent.
NotAsleep
3.1 / 5 (13) Feb 18, 2011
Gswift7:

People used oil lamps for millenia. Not everyone is incompetent.

But you continuously prove that some are
YankInOz
3.5 / 5 (6) Feb 18, 2011
QC: all those bright, aware, oil lamp using folks are dead. ;)

As for the device - it states that it is for test and demonstration purposes. there is also a refining system available. So, for me - even discounting the cost - this is a wash. I am sure all of the instructions are a bit complicated. ;-)
panorama
4 / 5 (2) Feb 18, 2011
It looks like a precursor to Mr. Fusion from Back to the Future II.
GSwift7
2.8 / 5 (13) Feb 18, 2011
Q_C:

People used oil lamps for millenia. Not everyone is incompetent


The risk doesn't equal the reward. There are commercial sized machines like this one that are used for community projects. There's no logical reason to have these small ones in a home.

How many lives is it worth to turn plastic into oil in your home? Is one death that wouldn't have happened otherwise worth it? Look at how good people are at using the stove/oven or the home heating furnace or even the clothes dryer. Do you realize how many fires there are because people can't clean out their dryer vents?
lengould100
4.4 / 5 (7) Feb 18, 2011
Looks like it might be interesting for a remote off-grid site with no other option for waste disposal, but in general, this sort of process should be centralized for efficiency, continuous operation, continuous monitoring for emissions, cost, scale, etc. etc.
just_tubbs
1 / 5 (2) Feb 18, 2011
The only solid I know that is burned to gas without leaving a solid is frozen water. Is there no solid (toxic) by-product or did they fail to mention that?
just_tubbs
1 / 5 (2) Feb 18, 2011
Many people put their recyclables in a plastic bag AND leave the top on. I vote for a centralized process as well; they could use the mistakes made in recycling to produce the oil.
Eri
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 19, 2011
I just burn it all. Seems OK.
kilkman
5 / 5 (1) Feb 19, 2011
Price is prohibitive. But for those of us who live in the boonies, It would cut down on trips to the dump. Glass and synthetics are the only waste we don't feed to livestock or burn. Something like this would eliminate some synthetics from that tally. And the oil it makes doesn't need to be very high quality for bar oil for saws or dippers for chains. Price just needs to come down about 1000%
rethinker
1.5 / 5 (8) Feb 19, 2011
Take a hand full of bottle caps throw them in the wood stove and
bingo you got heat and toxic gas up the chimney.

I sell these units for under $500.00
And you can burn wood,paper, cardboard and many other waste products.
SineQuaNon
5 / 5 (1) Feb 19, 2011
As proof of concept this is excellent. Up-scale, purchase and attach to every third (or even first) world slum / landfill site. Stick a few on boats and go out clean up the ocean. It may never make money for the individual but as part of an environmental cleanup at least there is a useable product at the end.
timothy_l_dennison
3 / 5 (2) Feb 19, 2011
I think it is a mistake to try to factor the payback, when the production costs are still high. The cost will come down, as manufacturing costs diminish. I personally am against the idea that power generation be centrally located. It is a grid, and power can flow both ways. Why not give people a way to make or save money from trash? The argument that people would burn the houses down is not well thought out. That is why the average person no longer is capable of self-sufficiency. Too many laws and regulations. If we worried so much about accidents, we would not drive on the roadways.
timothy_l_dennison
1 / 5 (1) Feb 19, 2011
There is a huge island in the Pacific Ocean, the size of Rhode Island, made of plastic. I think it would be great to start harvesting it for something useful.
mfritz0
1 / 5 (1) Feb 19, 2011
This sounds like an excellent project for green peace. They could obtain some ships and put upscaled versions on these machines and start cleaning up the oceans of the world. They might even make some money from the sale of fuel. I wonder how much it would take to convert this oil into diesel?
Dan_Gordon
not rated yet Feb 19, 2011
Guys, relax. This is a first-generation device. Sure it's not as efficient as it could be yet, and it's not really that cost-effective. Just give it time! This is a good alternative to letting plastic sit in landfills, or worse, the ocean.

Some day soon (sooner than you think), we'll be using GM-bacteria to do this job at room temperature with very high-efficiency. Until we have that kind of biological engineering expertise, we should explore this approach.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (6) Feb 19, 2011
Take a hand full of bottle caps throw them in the wood stove and
bingo you got heat and toxic gas up the chimney.

I sell these units for under $500.00
And you can burn wood,paper, cardboard and many other waste products.
Burning plastic in a wood stove stinks and gums up the interior and flue and converter, doesnt it?
But for those of us who live in the boonies, It would cut down on trips to the dump
How much waste plastic you accumulate in the boonies or for that matter how much does any household produce? I can see possibly a market for processed waste plastic developing around this gadget if the $$ worked out right, but it may make more sense for commercial units to produce fuel oil for conventional home furnaces, if anything. Maybe for small businesses which produce sufficient plastic waste, they could heat their facilities.
trucksmart
1 / 5 (3) Feb 19, 2011
They should take this thing down to Baja, Mexico. There are probably enough plastic bags blowing around the countryside to provide enough energy to power each town while they clean up the eye sores.
rethinker
1 / 5 (7) Feb 19, 2011
(Burning plastic in a wood stove stinks and gums up the interior and flue and converter, doesn't it?)

I believe you are correct. I am just saying if you build a stove correctly that the plastic has no effect on the system,it would be 1000 times cheaper.
The fumes can be recycled until they reach a point of safety before exiting the chimney.
The industry already has a way to do this.
stvnwlsn
not rated yet Feb 19, 2011
Using a solar dish, trough or fresnel lens would eliminate the need for electric heat. The unit would just have to be outside and used on sunny days.
Mercury_01
1 / 5 (4) Feb 19, 2011
Take a hand full of bottle caps throw them in the wood stove and
bingo you got heat and toxic gas up the chimney.

I sell these units for under $500.00
And you can burn wood,paper, cardboard and many other waste products.

Yes! thats a real renewable resource. This retarded home unit should be recycled into fuel in an old fashioned wood stove. Recycle the bags in a central location. These people just want to build something and try to sell it to morons in the city who've lost all touch with reality.
Moebius
2.3 / 5 (9) Feb 21, 2011
This is ignorant beyond belief. Those bags should be outlawed not burned. You can buy all kinds of nice permanent bags to use for groceries and never use the disposable things. Before they had grocery bags, a stupid american invention, everyone used their own bags to buy groceries.

This I why I've said we don't actually pay the environmental price for things and they are artificially cheap. Those 'disposable' bags are NOT disposable. They hurt the environment in many ways. They cost energy, materials and hurt the environment to make, they cost energy, materials and hurt the environment to transport, and they hurt the environment and waste the materials in disposal. A testament to our stupidity and arrogance.
FroguetteMiNote
1 / 5 (6) Feb 21, 2011
Dioxins at home? What an improvement!