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Plastics technologies near to commercialisation

United States – A recent study conducted by US research firm RTI International has brought to light that plastics conversion technologies like gasification and pyrolysis are ‘€˜expected to begin breaking through to commercial viability with a short horizon – in 5 to 10 years’€™. Plastics-to-oil ventures in particular are hailed as being on the verge of ‘€˜full scale’€™ economic profitability owing to their consistent feedstock composition and material supply.

Funded by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the study was initiated to examine the potency of the two recycling technologies, both of which use non-recycled plastics as their key feedstock. According to ACC’€™s Managing Director of Plastics Markets Keith Christman, intelligence indicates ‘€˜emerging technologies designed to recover energy from waste can harness a significant and largely untapped source of alternative energy’€™.

When combined with ‘€˜strong recycling programmes’€™, the conversion techniques might even provide enough power to serve homes, cars and business all across America, suggests Mr Christman. ‘€˜This could help communities increase landfill diversion and cost savings over traditional waste management methods.’€™

However, the researchers point out that ‘€˜significant barriers exist’€™ along the road to this potential reality – not least the many regulatory limitations currently in play. ‘€˜The permitting process is a complex one,’€™ they warn, as solid waste handling, water and air permits must first be obtained through the local health department. Bureaucratic difficulties like these frequently lead to ‘€˜substantial delays in construction’€™, making recyclers lose time as well as interest.

Yet the study maintains a positive stance overall, remarking that ‘€˜the future will depend heavily on the success of first’€generation facilities’€™ and that ‘€˜some successes are already coming to fruition’€™. It points out: ‘€˜Two facilities have off’€take agreements, and almost all of the surveyed vendors have recently received awards for innovation and/or clean energy solutions.’€™


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