Converting all of the non-recycled plastics that are heading for Canadian landfills each year into energy using current technologies would be sufficient to provide fuel for over 600,000 automobiles annually, a new report suggests.
The study was carried out for the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) by the School of Planning of the University of Waterloo.
Converting the plastics to fuel oil through pyrolysis technologies would produce nearly 9 million barrels of oil-equivalent hydrocarbons, at a value of $786 million, the report said.
In an alternative scenario, the study estimated that if all of the non-recycled plastics were separated from other wastes and used as fuel in specially designed power plants, the electricity produced would be sufficient to supply almost 500,000 Canadian households annually while also reducing dependence on coal.
“Plastics, being hydrocarbons, have energy values substantially higher than coal and almost as high as natural gas and oil. Capturing this energy value of non-recycled plastics would contribute a significant supply of alternative energy in Canada”, said Professor Murray E. Haight, one of the authors of the study.
The study’s message about recycling is one that the Toronto-based CPIA has been driving home for the past several years. “After use, plastics should be recycled to the full extent possible. For non-recycled plastics, they can be re-purposed to be a valuable energy source. Recovering this energy complements recycling and is a better option to landfilling energy”, said Cathy Cirko, vice president of the CPIA.