Dow makes energy from recycled plastic
Linda Casey -- Packaging Digest, 5/24/2011 11:53:10 AM
The Dow Chemical Co. says it has successfully demonstrated the use of recycled plastic to generate energy. The pilot test measured how plastic that has been reused and recycled to the full extent possible can be used as fuel for an ultimate end-of-life option instead of going to a landfill for disposal.
The pilot test found that 96 percent of available energy was recovered after incinerating 578 lbs of linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE) scrap film, which generated in one of Dow's extrusion laboratories, at one of Dow's waste treatment facilities. The energy recovered was equivalent to 11.1 million BTUs of natural gas and was used as fuel for Dow's incinerator during the test. The trial took place at Dow's second-largest U.S. manufacturing location in Midland, MI.
"The purpose of the test was to collect data showing that used plastic can provide a valuable source of energy and ultimately help reduce our need for natural gas or other fossil fuels," says Jeff Wooster, plastics sustainability leader for Dow's North American Plastics business. "The study results demonstrate that almost all of the available energy stored in used plastic can be captured and reused as opposed to being buried in a landfill."
While most thermoplastics can be reprocessed, there currently are limited end-of-life options for certain types of used plastic packaging, such as some flexible films and containers made from a combination of materials.
"Energy recovery and chemical transformation do not replace the traditional means of recycling plastics - they extend and complement it," Wooster explains. " Recovering embedded energy in recycled plastic is a ‘best-in-class' approach used in Europe and other regions. Energy recovery is a clean, reliable, renewable source of energy having less environmental impact than many other sources of energy. Our next step is to help find a way to scale up this more sustainable practice in the United States."
The sustainability advantages of energy recovery include utilizing natural gas or oil first to make plastics, which can then be used, reused, recycled and recovered at end-of-life, capturing the energy content of the original feedstock. Energy recovery allows more utility captured from every natural gas or oil molecule.
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