Eccentric Energy: Plastic Power
There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the detrimental impact that plastics are having on our oceans and the environment. So this month’s eccentric energy blog considers innovative ways to reduce or eliminate the effects of these imperishable polymers – including the generation of energy from plastic waste.
From waste to heat
The British Plastic Federation states that once plastic has been recycled six times, it’s no longer economically – or environmentally – viable to recycle again. In these circumstances, the BPF advocates the plastics having “their energy recovered through Energy from Waste (EfW) incineration [to] provide much needed home grown power.”
London’s SELCHP EfW plant takes up to 420,000 tonnes of household waste per annum and converts anything that’s not recyclable, including non-viable recycled plastics, into electricity. The plant’s pipe system supplies 2,500 residential properties in the Borough of Southwark with low carbon heat that’s cheaper than gas.
The system has cut approximately 7,700 tonnes of CO2 per year since 2014, and SELCHP is planning to expand to more consumers and residents in the future.
Plastic eating enzyme
Giant landfills are a significant contributor to the plastic problem. However, one waste dump in Japan accidentally found a potential solution back in 2016: the first naturally evolved, plastic eating bacterium.
Since scientists revealed the structure of the enzyme released by the bug, University of Portsmouth researchers have unintentionally made the molecule even more efficient. The mutant enzyme takes just a few days to start breaking down the plastic used for soft drink bottles, compared to the centuries it would take in our oceans.
Biodegradable water bottle
With nearly 35 million plastic bottles used daily in the UK, it’s safe to assume they’re a significant contributor to the global issue of plastic disposal. However, Scottish entrepreneur and philanthropist James Longcroft may have found a resolution.
After months of kitchen table experiments, he’s created a bottle that could revolutionise the industry. Made from sustainable plant-based materials, it’s fully biodegradable and uses no fossil fuels in production. Although the bottle isn’t ready for supermarket shelves just yet, James hopes to soon receive funding for new moulds and machinery to produce them on a commercial scale. His not-for-profit company aims to divert all surplus income to help poor communities in Africa gain access to clean, safe drinking water.