plastic running backwards

Giant microwave turns plastic back to oil

Key to GRC's process is a machine that uses 1200 different frequencies within the microwave range, which act on specific hydrocarbon materials. As the material is zapped at the appropriate wavelength, part of the hydrocarbons that make up the plastic and rubber in the material are broken down into diesel oil and combustible gas.

"Anything that has a hydrocarbon base will be affected by our process," says Jerry Meddick, director of business development at GRC, based in New Jersey. "We release those hydrocarbon molecules from the material and it then becomes gas and oil." Whatever does not have a hydrocarbon base is left behind, minus any water it contained as this gets evaporated in the microwave.

Gershow Recycling, a scrap metal company based in New York, US, has just said it will be the first to buy a Hawk-10. [...] GRC says its Hawk-10 can extract enough oil and gas from the left-over fluff to run the Hawk-10 itself and a number of other machines used by Gershow.


37 Responses:

  1. ak_47 says:

    Don't miss the video of the process, too!

  2. lindseykuper says:

    We're one step closer to my life goal of inventing a machine to convert waste plastic to chocolate.

  3. edge_walker says:

    Anything that has a hydrocarbon base will be affected by our process

    Soilent oil is people!

  4. greyhame says:

    GRC says its Hawk-10 can extract enough oil and gas from the left-over fluff to run the Hawk-10 itself and a number of other machines used by Gershow.

    Um, so they're claiming to have built a perpetual motion machine?

    • cabrius says:

      No moreso than any other type of power plant, which can power themselves off of the electricity they produce. It's just gas instead of electricity here.

      Perpetual motion machines claim to be self-powering without any further input, whereas you need to keep feeding this thing more plastic.

  5. babynutcase says:

    Where do they get the energy to power the microwave devices?From burning coal, that's where.Beautiful coal. although not as well known, releases from coal combustion contain naturally occurring radioactive materials--mainly, uranium and thorium.mountaintop removalGo run your clothes drying machines. Love Them, caress them.

    • joe714 says:

      Except for the part where once they kickstart it they can run it off grid on a portion of the output products.

        • jwz says:

          Plastic is consumed to power the device. Less energy comes out than goes in. Running the device off a portion of its input does not imply free energy.

          • rapier1 says:

            It kind of stuns me how many smart people make this basic mistake. Plastic/whatever is the fuel. Thats all. It seems more useful as a means of reducing landfill waste - especially tire waste - than of producing resellable fuel or energy. But thats fine - getting rid of tires is a noble thing.

        • joe714 says:

          Believe it or not, I actually did pass a couple of university physics classes and know what the laws of thermodynamics are.

          It's not a closed system, there's more energy in the feedstock than it takes to convert the feedstock into something more useful.

    • dmlaenker says:

      Well, as long as we have a 500-year supply of coal, and no one's letting us build nuclear plants because they don't want to bury or treat the waste, it's looking like coal's what's going to be happening.

      • strspn says:

        Well, sorry. Current projections involving liquefaction of coal (which became competitive with oil all the way back at $35 per barrel) indicate that we only have a 100 year supply. The IPCC carbon dioxide projections probably don't take that into account yet.

        If we convert plastics to oil, that's even more greenhouse gas.

        • taiganaut says:

          Thermal depolymerization is better used on flesh, it's true. :) There is a pilot installation at a Butterball plant that converts turkey guts to light fuel oil to partially power the plant.

        • But if we run the grid off items with lower impact (wind, sun, water) and we replace diesel generators for data centers with "burn the packing material for the computers when the grid goes down"... I think we come out in the positive.

  6. rstevens says:

    When I first saw this, it reminded me of an X-Men story from when they lived in Australia. Havok plasmafied all the trash in the town they were living in and evaporated it into component atoms.


  7. ultranurd says:

    Very cool. I wonder how loud it is when running, and how long it takes per batch.

    Could they have picked a more sinister-sounding name? Global Resources Corp.??

    • Well, see. I already have a room where I should probably wear ear protection, given the fan noise. There's already a fixed exhaust out one window for the A/C to cover the computers. I'm thinking "burning styrofoam shipping material for power" beats "buying diesel generator", in the even of an extended power outage. So I don't really care about the noise: I want to know the cost.

  8. pyrop says:

    Somebody need attach a huge one of these to an oil tanker and take it to middle of the Pacific Ocean.

    I'm confused as to how this manages to not make nasty sulfur gases during the process, though.

  9. jayp39 says:

    Tried to post this last night but LJ decided to start being a twat for "scheduled maintenance" right before I clicked post:

    1. It's not a very efficient process. Mostly it just makes recycling metals easier.

    2. Great, more oil to burn = more CO2 emitted. The energy and therefore emissions savings compared to mining and refining new materials may be worse, but it's not clear if making metal recycling easier would prevent the need to mine new materials, or if it would just save recycling companies some money.

    The technology is interesting, but it's not going to save us from ourselves. :(

    • pyrop says:

      You're missing the point. This technology (supposedly, it's hard to get scientific accuracy in news articles; who knows how viable this actually is) allows us to do something with all the garbage plastic in the world, which we're currently just dumping into landfills at best and the ocean at worst. Some of this plastic is really fucking nasty stuff that causes huge problems when it gets into the water supply. Burning it releases poison gases into the atmosphere (and i don't mean carbon dioxide, i mean shit like hydrogen cyanide) and is out of the question. Turning it into practically anything else is an improvement, and the fact that it turns the stuff into something as valuable as oil and carbon black means that this system is something people will want to use, rather than just whining that it's not economically feasible and ignoring it.

      No, if you're running it off its own oil, it's not carbon-neutral. Most things aren't. As a previous poster pointed out, most of the time electricity isn't carbon-neutral either. Besides, carbon emissions are not the only environmental issue in the world. Arguably, whether our oceans are full of plastic-derived chemicals that will slowly poison us is more important.

      • jwz says:

        Exactly. It's the "making plastic go away" aspect of this I find most interesting. Even if you didn't get energy out of this process, a way to de-toxify plastic would be useful.

        • jayp39 says:

          Detoxifying plastic is great. Detoxifying plastic by pumping out tons more CO2 is probably not. I think global warming will get us before the plastic in our oceans becomes a deadly problem for mankind.

          Which is not to say that I don't think the plastic problem is a real problem. It is. But we should start by using and producing less of it, banning plastic shopping bags, and charging a deposit for all disposable plastic gizmos. A system like this one allows people to be even more cavalier about using plastic for everything, because "it will be taken care of." Except for the part where most of the plastic bags that end up in the sea never made it to the landfill in the first place.

    • taiganaut says:

      As I point out above, processes very similar to this one turn not just plastic but practically ANYTHING into light fuel oil (with extra steam and mineral ash). So it is a useful technology.

      • jayp39 says:

        Yes, the turkey slurry plant is an interesting one, and if it can be modified to turn essentially anything into light oil, then I think that's a more sustainable way to go, since it can use truly renewable resources with no net increase in CO2 emissions (if the oil is being extracted from sources which extract CO2 from the atmosphere, and the plant is being run from the oil being extracted).