The next big thing in fuel could come from repurposed plastic. However, only 7 percent of plastic waste in the United States is recycled each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
A company in Niagara Falls, New York, is working to increase that percentage, with an eye toward reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil.
Th firm has a machine known as the “plastic-eating monster.”
Every hour, thousands of kilograms of shredded milk jugs, water bottles, and grocery bags tumble into its large combustion chamber. The waste plastic comes from landfills and dumps across the United States.
John Bordyniuk, who runs his namesake company, JBI, Inc., invented the new process for converting plastic into a range of fuels.
First, many different kinds of unwashed plastics are melted together.
“The viscosity looks like milk,” Bordyniuk says. “Almost like when you’re heating milk on the stove. Looks exactly like that, except it’s black.”
Bordyniuk uses a patented catalyst to vaporize the inky fluid and reduce the plastic to its most basic elements.
“Plastics are just long hydrocarbon chains,” he says. “What we’re doing is re-forming them into links and chains that we want so they have a high fuel value.”
The system powers itself, with 8 percent of the plastic waste running the process. Bordyniuk hired outside testers who concluded that nearly 86 percent of what goes in comes out as fuel.
At the other end of the plastic eating machine, JBI executive Bob Molodynia looks on while a stream of thin brown liquid pours into an oil barrel.
“You could tap this right now and it’s ready to go,” Molodynia says. “That’s a number six fuel, that’s what a lot of what US Steel uses, a lot of major companies, that’s what they pay the big bucks for, right there.”
JBI creates several grades of fuel for a variety of industries and sells them for up to $100 a barrel through national distributors. Each barrel costs about $10 to produce and JBI produces several thousand liters of oil a day.
The company has signed deals to set up operations next to large plastic waste dumps.
Bordyniuk believes plastics will become a significant source of domestic fuel that reduces the country’s dependence on foreign oil, while at the same time reducing the amount of plastic waste sitting in the country’s landfills.