Ocean Plastics Still a Scourge

California Congressmen Mike Honda and Sam Farr, hosted a tech-event in Washington D.C. the other day hoping to get some push behind the growing plastics-in-the-oceans problem.  Everything from throw away plastic medical supplies to six-pack beer rings contribute to wildlife death and ecosystem disruption every year.  More plastics have been generated in the last twenty years than in the entire century that proceeded it. The Honda/Farr event was designed to showcase alternative solutions to those embedded in plastics.

Rob Chase, founder of NewGen Surgical in San Rafael, is designing products made from the waste of sugar-cane harvests for hospital emergency rooms, where disposable plastic medical devices are the norm

Kevin L’Heureux, president of Fishbone Packaging in Santa Clarita (Los Angeles County), showed a photo of a turtle whose girth was squeezed to the size of a soda can by the plastic six-pack ring that had ensnared it when young. He has designed a paper six-pack holder that can break down in a home composter.

An estimated 8.8 million metric tons of plastic are added to the oceans each year — or about five grocery bags full of plastic litter for every foot of coastline in the world — said University of Georgia environmental engineer Jenna Jambeck

Aug. 11, 2009. Scripps Institution of Oceanography .  A patch of sea garbage at sea in the Pacific Ocean. ( Mario Aguilera/ AP)

Aug. 11, 2009. Scripps Institution of Oceanography . A patch of sea garbage at sea in the Pacific Ocean. ( Mario Aguilera/ AP)


Breaking Plastic into Constituent Elements

Damn! If this can be done on a large scale, with renewable energy to power it, without CO2 emmissions, or other toxic side-effects, it would be phenomenol!

“Plastic water bottles. Plastic toys. Plastic clamshell food packages. Plastic bags. Plastic furniture. Plastic cassettes.

Right now, most of it goes into landfills, much of it on pace to degrade in, oh, 400 years or so.

PolyFlow has a different solution, one that gets around the hassle of recycling. Its patented technology breaks down all manner of plastics into their base chemicals, which can then be processed back into plastic.

A demonstration plant has been erected on a weedy section of asphalt on the site of the former Brown-Graves Lumber Co. mill in Akron. PolyFlow executives have been showing off the technology to plastics industry officials and venture capitalists.

The mobile processor sits atop a flat-bed trailer. At one end is a large vessel, sheathed in shiny silver insulation. Inside go all types of plastic, even carpet samples and shredded tires. The oxygen is removed and the burners turned on, initiating a process called pyrolysis.

The plastic is essentially vaporized, after which it passes through a pipe to a condenser that converts it into a liquid the color of brown mustard. The noncondensable gas is flared off, but eventually will be used to fuel the plant.

The liquid can then be distilled into its raw components – chemicals like tolulene, benzene and styrene, the building blocks of plastics that would normally come from a barrel of crude oil. ”

Reprocessing Plastics