Indonesia is the second largest contributor to ocean plastic pollution. But they're also one of the most innovative when it comes to addressing that problem.
Landscape Indonesia, a company based (you guessed it) in Indonesia is developing and refining a process called pyrolysis, their new approach at breaking down and repurposing plastic.
So what exactly is pyrolysis?
Pyrolysis (pyro meaning fire and lysis meaning to break down) is a way to burn materials without the presence of oxygen.
When plastic is burned at high temperatures (we’re talking 300-900 ℃) in the absence of oxygen, the high temperatures break down heavy molecular polymer carbon chains and produce lighter ones. Aka, it burns the plastic and turns it back into oil.
So why is this really cool?
We all know plastic is a problem. What the heck do we do with all the plastic? Plastic production has not stopped, so maybe the answer isn’t in only finding alternatives to plastic but also in finding ways to reuse or repurpose plastic waste. Plastic is already incinerated but most of the time, it is burned at lower temperatures which pose the risk of generating poisonous and carcinogenic substances. So pyrolysis is not only better for the planet, but it's also a safer way of repurposing plastic waste.
Pyro-diesel then in turn becomes a byproduct of breaking down plastic waste, which Landscape Indonesia seeks to develop further and use as part of a solution to their great need for oil. And maybe this is something that could be adopted by other countries as a means for minimizing plastic waste and making better use of precious resources like oil.
This in turn creates more a closed loop system, where what comes out of the system is eventually what goes back into it.
How is plastic created in the first place?
Plastics are made from raw materials such as natural gas, oil, or plants. Those materials are refined into ethane and propane which are then treated with heat in a process called “cracking.” “Cracking” turns them into ethylene and propylene. Those materials are then combined to create different polymers, or a substance that contains large molecules composed of many repeating subunits. In the case of plastic, these are most often resins that come in various shapes and sizes. The resin, in the form of pellets, is then melted and poured into a mold, producing the many plastic products we use.
So in effect, pyrolysis reverses that process and turns plastic back into the raw material it was made from.
And if you're keen on repurposing plastic waste like we are, check out our Recycling Program to learn how you can recycle your used filters. And stay tuned for more plastic news here.
Want more info?
Watch a video here on how plastic is made.
Read more about Landscape Indonesia & Pyrolysis here.
- Forrest Gallagher