World Ocean Day debuts first solar powered machine to convert ocean's plastic to fuel
Written by Renewlogy
Salt Lake City, UT (Jun. 8, 2017) –
Imagine going out to sea to fish, but instead of fish you collect plastic waste. And the plastic waste is then converted to fuel which can be used by the boat. You no longer have to imagine, because a number of groups have partnered together to make this sci-fi dream a reality.
Just 40 miles off the shore of Hatteras Island, North Carolina, lies one of the most important fishing spots on the east coast. In late 2016, this area was designated a "Hope Spot" by Mission Blue and the IUCN World Conservation Congress. These waters contain large amounts of plastic pollution, including lost fishing gear, which poses a serious threat to marine life in the area.
This weekend, Plastic Ocean Project organized over a half dozen teams to set sail to fish for plastic waste just south of Hope Spot Hatteras. The group partnered with Renewlogy, a Utah-based waste technology company who has developed a system for converting non-recycled plastic waste to fuel. Using a mobile Renewlogy system powered by solar panels, they converted plastic waste collected from the ocean into fuel.
Plastic pollution in the oceans is a global threat that is receiving increased attention. A Science study estimated that 8 million tons of plastic waste enter our oceans each year, and a 2016 report published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimated that by 2050 there could be more plastic than fish in our oceans.
A number of groups are working on large-scale solutions to collect ocean plastic, including The Ocean Cleanup, led by 22-year old inventor Boyan Slat as well as a WWF-partnered research ship being funded by Norwegian billionaire Kjell Inge Røkke.
Plastic Ocean Project founder Bonnie Monteleone said of the projects "it is encouraging to see so many new projects and technologies working towards finding a solution." Plastic Ocean Project partnered with Renewlogy in 2015, and have together collaborated on creating a mobile system which can convert plastic waste collected at sea into fuels such as diesel.
Plastic to fuel conversion is a growing industry. The Argonne National Laboratory, part of the U.S. Department of Energy, recently published a study demonstrating that converting plastic waste to fuel leads to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and the American Chemistry Council has forecasted that the U.S. could see $6.6 billion of investment to build plastic to fuel facilities.
Renewlogy is one of the leaders in this emerging industry. Renewlogy CEO and Founder Priyanka Bakaya said “once plastics are collected from the ocean, they are very difficult to recycle. We developed our technology to find a solution for hard-to-recycle plastics, and it’s incredible to be able to convert these microplastics from the ocean into a clean fuel”.
Plastic Ocean Project and Renewlogy are already planning their next expedition, and looking for more partners. Monteleone noted, “it’s amazing to see how far two small organizations have come together the past two years, and we can’t wait to get more people involved and see how large an impact we can have.”