A technology, dubbed the Phoenix, is giving plastic waste a second life by turning it into diesel fuel and gasoline. John O’Bireck, president of energy investment company Sparta Group, says he sees plastic “as a resource, not a scourge.” He says the fuel produced by Phoenix is already being used in his company’s fleet of trucks that transport industrial waste. “Five tonnes of plastic can be converted into about 4,000 liters. And 4,000 liters can drive our whole fleet of 10 vehicles back and forth every day running 16 hours a day.”
O’Bireck says Phoenix uses a process involving pyrolysis — using heat to bring about decomposition — to upcycle plastics that can’t go into the recycling stream.”If you take plastic as it stands, it’s going to go in the ground and it’s going to sit there for a thousand years. By adding this technology, we are converting it so that we give it one more chance to go back out.”
The process shreds the plastic into smaller pieces and feeds it into a “cooker.” O’Bireck claims it’s not being burned; the material is in an airtight vessel and being heated in the absence of oxygen. “There’s actually two gases formed: condensable and non-condensable gas. We’re distilling it down to take it from its gas to a liquid.”
O’Bireck says the goal is to expand to municipalities and bigger companies. “In industry, we could take it, convert the plastic and feed it back into the plant to be used by the plant.”
A company in Nova Scotia has been using a similar process to turn plastic into fuel; some other companies are turning plastics into Styrofoam that can be recycled again and again.
Sheila McGrory, manager of economic development with the Town of Whitby, says the town is happy to host the Phoenix pilot. “They seem to be attracting a lot of international attention, people from various parts of the world coming to see the plant in operation,” she said. “It’s a great technology. It’s very important for the future of the planet.”