Using Oil Spill Model to Clean Up Trash from Oceans
Their first test facility, opened this past April, can convert up to 20,000 pounds a day of mixed plastics into 2,000 gallons of oil. And with a 2,000 sq. ft. footprint, it could work in a ship-borne environment.
Agilyx’s system is designed to accept mixed plastics contaminated by organic materials and weathered by exposure, the kind of waste expected to be found at sea.
“The problem is economics,” says Agilyx CEO Chris Ulum, referring to recycling the ocean-borne plastics. “It’s recyclable (by other methods) but it’s just not economically recyclable.”
Ulum points out that on land, his firm can turn an inexpensive feedstock—the landfill-bound plastic waste left over after valuable plastics, like PET, are removed by recyclers—into $40-a-barrel crude oil.
“We don’t compete with traditional recycling, we extend it,” he says.
Funding this massive collection effort would be tough, concedes Crowley, so if a technology like Agilyx’s can squeeze revenue from the collected waste, it could help defray costs.
That said, don’t expect massive profits from her initiative at this point, she says.
Since the garbage patches have been publicized, she’s received lots of calls from “people who want to mine the oceans” of plastics, adding that many of them have been “unfunded.”
But she is optimistic that the right technology will be found.
“There are a lot of people in industry working on this, too,” she says. “I am sure at some point down the line, we will be doing some kind of recycling at sea.”
She points out one her organization’s partners, Coca-Cola , is helping out by testing some retrieved plastics from their last voyage, to determine how long it’s been afloat.
Ultimately, she says, the same movement that tackled plastic waste on land will tackle it at sea, too.
“A lot of people really love the ocean,” she adds. “And they realize ocean trash is becoming more of an issue.”
On Wednesday, September 29 at 9pm ET/PT, CNBC presents “Trash Inc: The Secret Life of Garbage,”a CNBC Original reported by Carl Quintanilla that takes an inside look at what happens to our garbage after we throw it out – where it goes, who touches it, and who makes money.
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