The truth is that recycled plastic has limited use in the commercial world and there are very few products that can make effective use of it. So why not find another use for your end-of-life plastics?
Pyrolysis is a method by which old plastics can be converted into a wide range of products including transportation fuels, alternate chemicals, activated carbon, carbon black, recovered metals and even generate heat and electricity.
What is Pyrolysis?
Pyrolysis is a particular type of a reaction called thermolysis. This process, which is typically observed in organic materials, happens when they are exposed to high temperatures in the absence of oxygen. The high temperatures force liquids and gasses out of the material and leave behind a carbon residue called char. This is the process that is used to turn coal into coke. It is also what happens when plant matter comes into contact with the intense heat from volcanic lava.
Capturing Pyrolysis for the Chemical Industry
Enterprising chemists and chemical engineers have seen many uses for this process as well. The simplest methods involve turning wood into charcoal or even methanol. Vinyl chloride monomer is also created this way by using pyrolysis on ethylene dichloride. Pyrolysis offers several advantages for transforming organic material into something different or more useful.
Converting those End-of-Life Plastics with Pyrolysis
Recycling does not fundamentally transform plastic. It just shreds it, converts it to pellets and sends it back out into the world with a more limited use. This process is made more difficult by the fact that most consumer plastics do not play well together. For recycling purposes, plastics must be of nearly identical compositions so that they can mix properly and be recycled. Pyrolysis is much more elegant.
The conversion starts by applying heat to plastic feedstock. The feedstock begins to decompose into the three primary forms of matter: solids, liquids and gas.
The solids, called char, will consist of mostly carbon. Depending on the type of plastics and the heat used, these solids can be used in several ways. The first and easiest is that any metals that were a part of the plastic can be separated and recovered. Further refining of the carbon can be done, turning it into useful activated carbon.
The gases can easily be used to power a boiler or steam turbine. They can also be refined and used as a fuel.
Finally, the liquid product, oil, is something we are all familiar with. This oil can be processed to produce fuel or chemicals.
Pyrolysis offers many alternatives to the simple recycling process that plastics typically go through.
COSTELLO can Get you Started with Pyrolysis
Looking to get more out of your end-of-life plastics? COSTELLO’s engineers can get you started. Contact Rocky today!