IETC

International Environmental Technology Centre 

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PROJECT CONVERTING WASTE PLASTIC INTO FUEL

Background

Waste plastic dumping siteThe world’s production of plastic materials has been increasing over the past 20 years at a rate of nearly 5% per annum. In 2010 alone, 265 million tonnes of plastics were produced, 15 million more than the previous year. This means that on the one hand more resources are being used to meet demand but also more plastics waste is being generated.

In developing countries, due to economic growth as well as changes in consumption and production patterns, the increase in use of plastics has been higher than the world average and waste plastics are becoming a major waste stream. Waste plastics are often found to be as litter across cities; they are burned, buried or disposed of in open dumps along with other waste.

Due to the properties of the plastics, the high quantities being generated and the lack of efficient end-of-life management, in many developing countries plastics are now posing serious threats to the environment and human health. Even in the best cases when plastics are disposed of in sanitary landfills, they occupy large spaces and all these practices ignored the fact that waste plastics can be converted into a useful resource.

Needs to be addressed

Waste plastic can be converted into solid or liquid fuelThe negative impacts of waste plastics could be addressed or minimized by recognizing that waste plastics have a great potential for resource conservation when converted into a valuable resource

Keeping this in mind IETC started in 2009, with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan, a three-year project on the conversion of waste plastics into fuel. The project, implemented in the Philippines and Thailand aimed to:

  • Strengthen the local capacity for data collection and analysis to develop baseline scenarios  for cities/countries.

  • Build local capacity for identification of appropriate technologies for the conversion.

  • Assess their potential for resource conservation and potential for GHG reduction.

  • Assess their feasibility with regards to local socio-economic and environmental characteristics.

Phases of the project and activities

The project was designed in three stages of one year’s duration each. Under each phase the following activities were undertaken:

Phase I – Scoping phase (2009 - 2010)

Consult all baseline studies and activity reports compiled as part of the phase I of the project.

Phase II – Design phase (2010 - 2011)

Detailed waste plastic quantification and characterisation on the selected cities.

  • Technology assessment according to local conditions.

  • National training to raise awareness on the environmentally sound technologies for converting waste plastic into fuel.

  • Design of the pilot project including a techno feasibility study and policy interventions required to ensure success.

Phase III – Implementation phase (2011 - 2012)

The world’s annual production of plastic materials has been steadily increasing over the past 20 years at a rate of nearly 5% production growth. In 2010, 265 million tonnes were produced, 6% (15 million) more than the previous year  and consumption patterns show that within developing countries the increase of plastic consumption has been higher that the world average due to rapid urbanisation and economic development. This trend implies not only an increase in needed resources but higher quantities of plastic waste being generated.

In Asia and the Pacific region, plastic consumption has increased much more than the world average due to rapid urbanization and economic development. The consumerism has picked up sharply resulting in a rapid increase in plastic waste generation levels.

Most of the plastic waste generation is in cities. After food waste and paper waste, plastic waste is the major constituent of municipal waste and industrial waste in cities. Even the cities with low economic growth have started producing more plastic waste due to plastic packaging, plastic shopping bags, PET bottles and other goods/appliances using plastic as the major component (e.g. Dhaka produces about 140 tons of plastic waste every day). Figure 1 and 2 illustrate these findings.

Increased Plastic Percentage within the Municipal Waste in selected OECD Countries

                           ESP: Spain, GRC: Greece, HUN: Hungary, NDL: Netherlands, JPN: Japan
                           FRA: France, USA: United States of America

 Figure 1: Increased Plastic Percentage within the Municipal Waste in selected OECD Countries

Figure 2:  Plastic Waste Generation in 7 OECD Countries and in 7 Asian CitiesFigure 2:  Plastic Waste Generation in 7 OECD Countries and in 7 Asian Cities

Due to the properties of the plastics, their high quantities being generated and the lack of efficient end of life management, in many developing countries plastics are now posing serious threats to the environment. Large amounts of waste plastics can be found as litter, spread within the cities, or are subject to treatments such as being burned, buried or open dumped; having all of these options detrimental consequences. Littered plastics, not only spoil the landscape but they block the sewage systems/drains, which contributes to floods, and also represent potential threats to wildlife when plastics are eaten as if they were food. On the other hand, the practice of burning plastics, along with other waste, releases toxic pollutants, which affects the quality of the air and poses negative impacts to public health.

Plastics disposed at the landfill, due to the high quantities generated and their non biodegradability (and therefore long life), require large spaces in the landfills and add pressure to space constrains. Additionally these plastics foster the formation of green house emissions (GHG) in the landfill by encapsulating organic materials under anaerobic conditions that will lead to the formation of methane.

Furthermore, even though recovery of plastics usually occurs within the informal sector, some types of plastic waste which in the past were being collected by waste reclaimers for recycling are nowadays being left in the trash since their lightweight nature make their collection not profitable (e.g. plastic containers or carrier bags).

These negatives impacts of waste plastics could be addressed or minimized through the recycling of plastic waste by which the plastics can be converted into a valuable resource. In this case, plastic recycling could contribute to:

  • Resource conservation, an important goal for most of the national and local governments, due to the current pressure on natural resources as a consequence of rapid industrialization and economic development.

  • GHG emission reduction potential on two accounts; (a) making fuel from waste plastic can obviate an equivalent amount of fossil fuels, (b) co-disposal of waste plastic in landfills causes formation of pockets of anaerobic decomposition of organic waste which can be avoided.

Plastic waste recycling, in most of the situations, could also be economically viable, as it generates resources which are in high demand however analysis of local conditions and consideration of the required initial capital investment are to be assessed.


Three phases


Two supporting publications

The project included the development of supporting materials to be used for capacity building, to be tested during the implementation of the demonstration projects and improved according to the feedback of the users:


Summary and reporting

The implementation of the demonstration projects was agreed to be undertaken in a minimum of two cities. The selection was first at country level and narrowed down to city level. read more ...

Consult all baseline studies and activity reports compiled as part of the phase I of the project.

Final reporting for the project


Support for the project

This project is financially supported by theMinistry of Foreign Affair of Japan.

Ministry of Foreign Affair,
Governement of Japan.

The project was conducted in partnership with the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology of Japan(AIST)

National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology of Japan (AIST)

Implementation in Cebu, Philippines, was caried out with the support of the municipality of Cebu city and the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP)

Municipality of Cebu city,
            Philipppines Development Academy of the Philippines

Implementation in Thailand was caried out with the support of the municipalities of Nakhon Ratchasima and Phitsanulok

Municipality of Nakhon
            Ratchasima, Thailand Municipality of Phitsanulok,
            Thailand
 Municipality of
Nakhon Ratchasima
 Municipality of
Phitsanulok