Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Japanese inventor creates machine that converts plastic bags into fuel

By Megan Treacy
Posted Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:57pm PST
 
Plastic bags have been the enemy of environmentalists for pretty much as long as they have existed.  Not only are they made from oil, but they clog our landfills for hundreds of years.  Many cities, states and countries have banned plastic bags altogether, but for most of the world, they'll be hanging around for a while longer.
In an attempt to deal with the millions and millions of plastic bags used every year, Japanese inventor Akinori Ito has created a machine that can turn plastic bags into fuel in a carbon negative process.  The machine, which is now being sold by the inventor's Blest Corporation, heats the plastic and traps the vapors in a system of pipes, where the vapors are cooled and condensed into crude oil. The crude oil can be used in generators and even some stoves, but with one more refining step, it can be used in gasoline.
The very efficient machine can process two pounds of plastic (including polyethylene, polystyrene and polypropylene) into a quart of oil using only one kilowatt of electricity.
Obviously, once the fuel is burned, it will release CO2 into the atmosphere, but it's allowing the oil that created the plastic to be used twice instead of just once and then sent to a landfill.  That cuts down on the amount of oil we need to extract and keeps plastic out of landfills.
The machine is meant for households, but it currently costs $10,000, which is pretty steep.  Ito hopes that the cost of the machine will drop as production increases.
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