ISTANBUL (TURKEY) - JUNE 27, 2020: Federation Sahika Encumen, Turkish world record holder and diver of the Underwater... [+] Federation Sahika Encumen dives among plastic waste on Ortakoy coast to observe the pollution and life at Bosphorus, Istanbul, Turkey, June 27, 2020. Sahika Encumen was announced by United Nations Development Program Turkey as a Life Belowwater Advocate. She dives in this time to raise awareness about plastic pollution. (Photo by Sebnem Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images). Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
In my previous article, I discussed the global problem of plastic pollution. This problem can be solved by global treaties and the development of new technologies to address the use, manufacture, and reuse plastics.
Some companies have already begun to address the issue.
There are many reuse options available to address the increasing plastic waste stream. Plastics are almost entirely made of petroleum and retain significant amounts of energy after being used. It may make sense to burn them to generate power.
This approach has several problems. Plastics are combusted, which can lead to a variety of undesirable pollutants such as dioxins or furans. Also, waste plastics can contain unwanted components. PVC is a polyvinyl chloride and the chlorine atoms can create corrosive hydrochloric acids when it's combusted.
Pyrolysis, a different method of reducing plastic waste without oxygen, is used to make a liquid oil. Despite similar problems, this decades-old method seems to be the most popular. However, it produces many unwanted byproducts and requires additional processing.
One Canadian company claims they have found a new solution to the problems associated with pyrolysis. This opens up new possibilities that were not possible before.
Aduro Clean Technologies was established in Sarnia, Ontario in 2011. Its mission is to upgrade bitumen (a semi-solid petroleum form found in abundance in Canada). This small company, 70 years after the Canadian bitumen industry was established, discovered that trace metals, which are found in bitumen and can be a problem in oil refining and have an important catalytic function in the breakdown of complex bitumen components. This improved bitumen's properties and value.
The company also discovered that certain bio-based materials could be used to replace hydrogen gas in hydrocracking reactions. The company also realized that the same chemistry used to upgrade bitumen and renewable oils could be used to produce plastics. This allows for controlled conversion of liquid hydrocarbons to them under milder conditions, than the more traditional, unselective pyrolysis techniques.
Aduro's sustainable approach includes the addition of water, naturally occurring metals and bio-based materials such as glycerol and cellulose. This reduces long polymers (polymers), found in waste plastics to smaller molecules. This is similar to hydrocracking in a refinery, but it is done at lower temperatures and does not require the addition of hydrogen gas or expensive catalysts.
The company's analysis revealed that waste plastic is the source of hydrogen equivalents. This was a fortunate twist. Upcycling waste plastics can be self-sustaining. Some waste plastic can be used to make hydrogen alternatives, or foam from millions of mattresses that are thrown away every year. This allows for a stand-alone, efficient waste plastic processing facility that can serve the best interests of the community it is associated with.
Aduro is Hydrochemolytic Technology (HCT) as it is also known. It is Hydrochemolytic Plastics Recycling (HPU) when applied to plastics.
Recent lab runs showed that HPU was able to produce 99% pure paraffin oil from polyethylene, which is diesel-like. The yield was above 90%. Although the product can be used for fuel, Aduro CEO Ofer Vius explained that the real prize is the efficient chemical recycling polyethylene (PE), which can be used in the production of more polyethylene in fully circular mode.
The company expects to achieve success with other members of this plastic family, such as polypropylene and polystyrene. To prove its simplicity, the company will begin with PE-upcycling in order to build a precommercial unit of 10 metric tons per day in 2022. Then it will move on to other pilots that will work with higher amounts of the plastic family.
Vicus said that plastic recycling has been a high priority in society. HPU is determined to surpass this standard.