An Indian mechanical engineer, Satish Kumar, claims that he is able to generate fuel from plastic waste using a 3-step reverse engineering process known as plastic pyrolysis. involves indirectly heating the plastic in a vacuum, after which it goes through depolymerisation, gasification, and condensation. Adoption of such process can resolve much of the waste management issues across the globe.
Plastic waste in India has become an increasingly pressing problem over the years. With increasing dependence on plastic, the tendency to dispose of plastic casually has also become a part of the mainstream. Over the years, several waste to wealth mechanisms have been adopted to recycle and reuse plastic in innovative ways. One such trend is to make fuel from plastic waste and making it usable for both domestic and industrial purposes.
He has already done it
Since 2016, Satish Kumar has recycled around 50 tones of plastic waste in to petrol, diesel and aviation fuel. He also sales this fuel to local industries at the rate of Rs. 40-50 per litre. The usability of the fuel is yet to be tested for commercial use on vehicles. The synthetic fuel manufactured as a result are combustible fluids bearing resemblance to petrol but aren’t exactly the same.
fuel from plastic waste
About 500 kg of non-recyclable plastic can produce 400 litres of fuel. It’s a simple process which requires no water and doesn’t release waste water. Neither does it pollute the air as the process happens in vacuum. I prefer to use ‘end of life’ plastics because we can’t further recycle it anymore – says Satish Kumar
The advantage of the fuel is that it does not produce sulfur or nitrate emissions, thus ensuring safe combustion. Also, with the exception of PVC and PET plastics, all types can be put into effect for the making the fuel and does not have to be segregated for the process.
Do it yourself: Turn plastic waste into oil at home.
What is Plastic Pyrolysis?
According to the scientific definition, plastic pyrolysis is a chemical reaction where pyro = heat and lysis = breakdown. This reaction involves the breakdown of larger molecules into smaller ones in the presence of heat.
Pyrolysis means thermal cracking, thermolysis, depolymerisation, etc. Plastic and tyre pyrolysis involve subjecting it to high temperatures of 400–450 degree Celsius, in the absence of oxygen. In the presence of oxygen, plastic starts to burn.
Related article – A startup produces 3d printer filament from plastic wastes
During pyrolysis, plastic and tyre break down into smaller molecules of pyrolysis oil, pyrolysis gas, and carbon black. Like plastic and tyre, pyrolysis end products are also hydrocarbons. Pyrolysis is a great way of recycling waste plastic and tyres. You can download detailed presentation on plastic pyrolysis on Slide-Share, submitted by Mr Prateek Jain of NIT, Hamirpur.
Contribution to Environment & Cleanliness
India’s daily generation of over 15,000 tonnes of plastic. Thus the prospects of conversion to fuel are abundant, provided there is sufficient infrastructure available. The government’s focus on waste management via Swachh Bharat Abhiyan also addresses the issue of plastic waste. And perhaps this is the best way with which the problem could be dealt with.
Countries like US, Japan and Germany have already implemented technique to generate fuel from plastic waste successfully. They have also successfully created business models out of the conversion process, resulting in the conversion model becoming a profitable business one. Though in India, we still have a long way to go in terms of adopting plastic to fuel as a business model. However it feels so proud when we hear such breakthroughs to convert plastic to usable fuel.
The article first posted in Deccan Chronicle in July 2017.