There is no doubt that plastic in the Marine Environment is possibly one of the biggest hidden environmental issues of our time.  There is no way to really estimate the amount of debris out there, nor any way to anticipate its impacts.

We do know that plastic kills, not just birds but fish and other microscopic organisms like plankton, which are the basis for the food chain on Earth.  Those little critters are responsible for producing 80% of the worlds oxygen, so if we lose them, well, we lose too.

from our Blog:

For the past several years, Surfers Without Borders have been researching various methods of producing energy from waste. While there are many clean ways to get electricity from biomass or organic matter, we were particularly looking for ways to create an incentive for people to clean up the ocean, mainly the plastic that has gathered itself and our attention in the Northern Pacific Gyre.

After many sessions surfing the internet, we came across a pretty promising process and series of machines invented by the Blest Corporation of Japan. After contacting them we were put in touch with their US representatives, E-N-ergy Inc.

In February 2011, E-N-ergy visited Surfers Without Borders at the Orella Stewardship Institute to demonstrate the innovation that turns common household plastics into usable oil. The machines range from a small desktop units to large continuous processing machines and refiners that can handle up to multiple tons of plastic waste.

The Blest Be-h desktop unit was on hand converting plastic grocery bags, milk and water jugs, margarine and yogurt containers into oil that can run generators and other engines. The desktop unit is ideal for classrooms, small offices or home use. (click here to watch a video of the process)

Plastics of type #2, #4, #5, #6 and some #7 are usable, including bags, wrappers, and other thin film plastics that are not recyclable (which are also the most damaging to the environment). The plastics are put into the melting chamber where they are heated to around 420 deg C, at which point the plastic boils and the hot gasses are run through a water bath to be condensed into oil.

The Blest Be-h desktop unit uses 1 kilowatt of electricity to convert 1 kilogram of plastic into 1 liter of oil, at a cost of around US $0.25. The oil can then be further refined back through the machine into gasoline, kerosene, and diesel. A small amount of ash is left over, and the off-gasses are turned into CO2 and water with a catalytic converter, or can be used to run a generator.

The process is called pyrolysis- or gasification, and is a tried and true method for converting almost any type of material into energy. Material is super heated in the absence of oxygen- so does not combust, but vaporizes into gas. Since there is no combustion, there are no toxic gasses released, so the process is relatively clean.

While this technology is not a silver bullet for the issue of marine debris, it is a start. The real value of this process is to demonstrate that plastic is a resource, even that which cannot be recycled, like all those silly bags of corn chips and candy bars.

Furthermore- we are not implying that we should continue to use more and more plastic because we can convert it to fuel. This technology offers one solution for plastic that is already in circulation, particularly that which is circulating the globe in the ocean. We must also continue to look at replacing plastics with other biodegradable or benign materials, like wax paper.

If we as humans can shift our perception of “waste”, we can create jobs that clean up the planet. If we consider our trash as treasure, people will think twice about throwing things “away”, wherever that is.

Click here to read the full Blog

Read more about the line of Blest machines at E-N-ergy's blog:

Plastic to Oil!

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The Blest Be-h desktop Plastic to Oil machine