If it's Monday, it must be refuse day.
Plastic recycler Agriplast says its Oregon facility has delivered its first full tanker container of oil (8,200 gallons) derived from recycled plastic that can be refined into oil for cars. The idea, of course, is to take a waste stream and convert it into something useful (see Green Light post).
The company hopes to make a second shipment of synthetic crude later this month and expand its manufacturing footprint. The company claims that 20 of its plastic-to-crude machines can produce enough oil to fill a container daily. Agriplast, however, did not state how much its plastic crude costs.
Right now, there are two general methods for getting rid of old plastic bottles and other items. Some countries, like England and Ireland, recycle it by shipping it to other countries to deal with. Plastic bottles have a low recycling value; hence, a lot of the "recycled" plastic ends up in landfills. Punitive taxes have helped make this popular. In Ireland, a 15 cent tax on plastic bags dropped their use by over 99 percent, Kevin O'Connor, a researcher at University College Dublin told us last year. (O'Connor has developed a method of turning old plastic into new, biodegradable plastic with a genetically enhanced microbe.)
The other method to "recycle" plastic is to burn it. Sweden, Switzerland, Germany and other countries practice it. It yields useable energy, but it's not the cleanest practice in the world either.
Mazda, meanwhile, announced that it would sell a sedan with a urea-selective catalyst reduction system. The system is part of its MZR-CD 2.2-liter turbo diesel engine (nod to GreenCar Congress for writing on this first). Urea in a filtration system breaks down NOx gases and can be implemented at the engine or the tailpipe. Mazda claims its system is 60 percent faster than other systems.
Urea is a chemical naturally found in urine. Right now, however, most chemical manufacturers produce it synthetically by cracking methane (see Green Light post). A few startups like Denmark's Agroplast, however, are experimenting with ways to collect it on the farm.
And researchers at the Maryland NanoCenter at the University of Maryland, College Park, say they are making progress on ultracapacitors with nano-scale components that could lead to devices that are ten times more efficient than today's products. The results of their research are available in the latest issue of Nature Nanotechnology.
Like all things nano, the increase in performance comes because of an increase in surface areas. By breaking up matter into nano-sized particles (a nanometer is a billionth of a meter) the active surface area for chemical reactions is dramatically expanded. Many in the automotive industry want to insert ultracapacitors as a way to recharge batteries in electric cars. Ultracaps can charge far quicker, and discharge far quicker, than batteries. Next year, Formula One drivers will zip around the track with Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems, ultracapacitors that will provide a burst of energy to gas-powered cars.