Thinking Tech

New invention turns plastic bags into oil

Posting in Sustainability

A Japanese company has created a machine that turns environmentally unfriendly plastic bags into crude oil for fuel.

A Japanese company has created a machine that turns environmentally unfriendly plastic bags into crude oil for fuel. Oh but wait... now we have that little pesky problem of carbon emissions.

The idea for such a technology has been around for a while since plastic bags are made from oil, and so it's conceivable to reverse the process. Envion, a Washington D.C. based tech start-up, has already opened a large-scale facility that converts 10,000 tons of plastic back into oil each year.

But what makes the machine from Japan-based Blest Corporation unique is that it can be installed for home use rather than for industrial purposes. Yes, for about $10,000 dollars, you can have your very own appliance that only needs one kilowatt of power to convert about two pounds of plastic into a liter of oil.

Here's a quick, non-technical breakdown of how the machine works from CleanTechnica:

His invention is actually a non-polluting, fully contained process that heats up the plastic, traps the vapors and channels them through an intricate system of pipes and water chambers. These, in turn, cool the vapors and condense them back into crude oil. This crude oil can be used in generators and even some stoves. An additional refinement step converts the crude oil into gasoline.

Environmentalist groups haven't been too enthusiastic about this type of technology, obviously. In an interview with the Washington Post, a Greenpeace spokesperson expressed some doubt over Envion's machine.

Environmental experts didn't immediately know what to make of the company's claims. A research director with the environmental organization Greenpeace said that he hadn't heard of this particular technology but that his instinct was to remain skeptical.

"There are so many schemes like this," said Kert Davies, citing plans he's heard that would make sustainable fuel out of everything ranging from turkey carcasses to carbon dioxide. "I get calls every other day from someone who has some invention that magically makes the world whole."

But from a pragmatic perspective, the U.S economy still has a ways to go to wean off of crude oil. At the very least, producing oil from plastic bags can lessen our dependence on oil-rich nations and reduce the deluge of non-biodegradable trash piling up on landfills.

Photo: Blest Corporation

Envion Demo from EnvionDemo on Vimeo.

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure