The system, an assembly of pipes and vessels that will cost around $5 million, essentially cooks plastics into a gas and then condenses the vapor into a soup of long-chain hydrocarbons that can subsequently be converted into diesel, jet fuel or other substances.
One factory module can turn 40,000 pounds of plastic into 130 barrels of oil a day, and larger modules are on the way. . . .
While refiners would process landfill oil into final products, trash companies would largely own and operate the machinery to make the basic feedstock. Many systems would by default probably wind up on landfills near large cities. . . .
Investors and large corporations are increasingly turning their attention toward technologies for recycling and “resource recovery” to capitalize on the growing tide of waste and rising prices for raw materials. Some describe it as a nascent golden age of garbage. . . .
Other novel start-ups in resource recovery include Modular Carpet Recycling, which can extract commercially viable nylon from old carpet, and Lehigh Technologies, which has retrofitted a mill for grinding expired pharmaceuticals to recycle rubber.
Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies, meanwhile, makes Crystal Green. It’s not a powdered drink mix, but a fertilizer produced with phosphorus extracted from municipal sewage streams. . . .
Only a fraction of the plastic in landfills is easily recycled. In some nations, “recycling” plastic actually means burning it for fuel, which creates an even bigger environmental hazard, said Kevin O’Connor, a researcher at University College in Dublin who has created a genetically modified organism that can recycle plastic. . . .
Conventional crude sells for $85 to $95 a barrel; other company executives have suggested in recent months that the system could produce crude for around $52 a barrel and even less over time.
Michaele Kanellos, "Reaping Oil from Discarded Plastic," September 29, 2011