The American Chemistry Council (ACC), Washington, D.C., has released a study showing that emerging technologies designed to convert plastics into fuels or raw materials could offer environmental benefits and cost savings compared with landfill disposal. The release coincides with the North American Waste-to-Energy Conference.
The study, Environmental and Economic Analysis of Emerging Plastics Conversion Technologies, sponsored by ACC’s Plastics Division and conducted by RTI International, examined gasification of municipal solid waste, including nonrecycled plastics, and pyrolysis of nonrecycled plastics.
When compared with landfill disposal, RTI found that gasification of municipal solid waste saves 6.5 to 13 million Btu (British thermal units) per ton and 0.3 to 0.6 tons of carbon equivalent emissions per ton. Similarly, pyrolysis, which converts plastics to oil or gas, saves 1.8 to 3.6 million Btu per ton and 0.15 to 0.25 tons of carbon equivalent per ton over landfill disposal.
“This study is the latest in a growing body of information showing that many of the things we’ve viewed as waste actually have tremendous potential as energy resources,” says Steve Russell, vice president of plastics for ACC. “As a complement to a robust recycling infrastructure, conversion technologies offer environmental benefits and cost savings over traditional waste disposal processes.”
The study identified 41 advanced conversion technology facilities that are under development or undergoing demonstration in North America and that will accept MSW or nonrecycled plastics as feedstock. The ACC says it expects these waste conversion technologies to become more attractive in North America in the next five to 10 years because of their many benefits.