Converting plastic from rivers, lakes and oceans into fuel is not as difficult as some might think, according to a new Canadian study.
The study, organized by Upcycle the Gyres Society and funded in part by the Canadian Plastics Industry Association, collected plastic marine litter from the shoreline of northern Vancouver Island in 2013, and then converted into a fuel using a Blest pyrolyser located in Whitehorse, Yukon.
The study concluded that 99 per cent of the litter was suitable for the pyrolysis process, which applies heat in the absence of oxygen to create liquid fuel. The marine litter seemed unaffected by exposure to salt water.
“Of particular note was the fact that chlorine levels from the pyrolysis of marine plastics were similar to the land-based materials,” the CPIA said in a statement. “No corrosion of a copper plate was detected. The material was not affected by salt water. The results from the testing were essentially the same as those reported for land-based plastics collected from the Whitehorse area.”
The next step is to study the collection of marine litter along Canada’s west coast and the possibility of converting it to fuel for remote communities, CPIA said. Currently, fuel is typically imported to these areas at considerable expense.
With diesel fuel priced at $1.20 per litre, and based on 58kg of plastic per capita per year, the payback of investing in the pyrolyser process could take one year for a community of 20,000 – which is the population of Whitehorse – or up to 21 years for a village of 200 people, CPIA said.